September 1, 2014

1 September 2014 Scanning

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I scan some books.

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, duck leg for tea and her back pain is still there.


Maria Lassnig: ‘Blokes are advised to bring a helmet’

Maria Lassnig’s nude self-portraits — painted in her eighties — shocked gallery audiences

Maria Lassnig. Partners, 2013. New Collection Galleries With Maria Lassnig's Painting 'die Sanduhr'.

Maria Lassnig with her painting ‘die Sanduhr’ Photo: REX FEATURES

7:15AM BST 31 Aug 2014


MARIA LASSNIG, the Austrian painter, who has died aged 94, was embraced by the art world only when she began to paint shockingly confrontational nudes of herself as an old woman.

Throughout an artistic career that spanned nearly 70 years, Lassnig’s art went in and out of fashion in her native Austria. But – though she lived in Vienna, Paris, New York and Berlin – she remained an obscure figure on the international scene. Her work was first unleashed on British audiences as late as 2008, when she was 89, for a solo show at the Serpentine Gallery featuring a selection of recent self-portraits observed from life in her late eighties.

Critics were stunned and impressed by her audacity — above all by a work titled You, or Me? which depicts the artist in a cheery palette of soft pinks, blues and green, with legs open and breasts sagging; in each hand she brandishes a gun, one pointing at her head, the other at the viewer. One reviewer’s write-up warned: “Visiting blokes are advised to bring a helmet.”

But Lassnig was praised for her bleak humour and insight as much as for her ability to provoke. One painting, featuring a couple with heads sheathed in plastic wrapping, was said to have been inspired by a visit to a supermarket where it dawned on her that fruit packets were a neat metaphor for the emotional distance between people.

Lassnig’s work bridged the post-war era, in which introspective Freudian ideas gave birth to expressive painterly styles, and the provocative feminist voices that emerged from the Sixties and Seventies. She herself, however, always denied allegiance to any political or feminist cause. “I’m interested in painting the finer feelings,” she said simply.

She refused to court trends in the art world, and weathered decades of rejection from the Establishment. Ultimately, she would be rewarded for sticking to her guns. “I have been working long enough to establish my own tradition, from realism through Surrealism, art informel, automatism, and I don’t know how many other isms,” she observed.

On her death she is remembered as one of the most significant Austrian painters of the past century, carrying on a figurative tradition that can be traced back to the Viennese artist Egon Schiele, and even – given her distinctive taste for a muted palette of pinks and blues – to the Austrian baroque. A retrospective exhibition of her work was recently held at MoMA in New York.

Maria Lassnig was born on September 8 1919 in the Carinthian town of Kappel am Krappfeld. She spent the first five years of her life at her grandparents’ farmhouse, until her mother married her adoptive father, Jakob Lassnig, and they moved into an apartment above his bakery in Klagenfurt; she did not meet her biological father until she was an adult.

After education at the Ursuline Convent School, in 1939 she trained to become a primary schoolteacher but, while painting portraits of the children, her ambitions changed. In the autumn of 1941, as Austria entered the darkest hours of the Second World War, she determinedly packed a bag and rode her bicycle 300km to Vienna to take up a place at the Academy of Fine Arts, which aligned itself at the time with the realist school favoured by the Nazis.

Maria Lassnig was a technically gifted student and, bored with the representational styles encouraged by her teachers, she experimented with Expressionism and Cubism. Classified a “degenerate” by her teacher, Wilhelm Dachau, she was expelled from his class. Decades later, in 1980, she would return to the academy as a professor, the first female painting professor in the German-speaking world.

Early on in her career, Lassnig became interested in exploring the relationship between her internal world and external appearance, and in 1948 coined the term “body awareness” to describe her efforts. Even in the Fifties and Sixties, while she explored abstraction, she was still investigating the limits of the human body; her so-called “Line Pictures” from this period were painted while kneeling or lying on the canvas to restrict her arm movements.

She was offered a fellowship in Paris in 1951, and afterwards spent long periods in the French capital, where she befriended the poets Paul Celan and André Breton. In 1968 she moved to the United States, the “country of strong women”, as she called it. In typically contrarian fashion, living among minimalists and conceptualists in New York inspired her to return to figurative painting. She called self-portraiture “research”, as opposed to painting, and was prolific and unwavering in her investigations: there are hundreds of them. She, briefly, experimented with filmmaking too, notably Kantate (1992), in which she sings and illustrates her life story.

In 1980, Lassnig represented Austria in the 39th Venice Biennale and returned to Vienna to take up a teaching post (until 1997).

Lassnig never married or had children, a conscious decision. “The dear Lord did not gift me with beauty, but the ability to paint,” she said.

Although Maria Lassnig famously tore around at great speed on her motorcycle, she was frightened of dying. The need to confront her own mortality caught up with her; her paintings became clearer, bolder and more confrontational. In her late eighties, she energetically produced work after work of startlingly youthful intensity. “Art keeps me young,” she insisted.

In 2013 she was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.

Maria Lassnig, born September 8 1919, died May 6 2014


Member of Parliament Carswell Douglas Carswell (R) and Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, laugh as they walk through the town centre of Clacton-on-Sea on 29 August. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

On the day the MP for Clacton defects to Ukip (Defection to Ukip puts pressure on Cameron, 29 August), the third Folkestone Triennial opens (A nugget and spade resort? The 2014 gold rush, 29 August). These might seem unconnected, but the problems of coastal towns, with their glamorous seaside image long gone and with only half the economic hinterland of any other town, are shared around the country, even in the otherwise prosperous east or south-east of England. Add in the surrounding low-wage agricultural areas in Lincolnshire, say, and you have all the ingredients Ukip needs.

What is different is that Folkestone had a one-man rescue campaign, with the foresight to realise that the arts could be used for wider regeneration. What Roger de Haan is doing in Folkestone, public bodies are now doing in Margate, but where are the philanthropists to take on Clacton or Great Yarmouth or Hartlepool? Encouraging philanthropy is one of the coalition’s few policies for the arts, but the vast majority of it remains in London.

Could the threat of Ukip actually encourage the other parties to invest in cultural regeneration?
Judith Martin
Winchester, Hampshire

• I have never voted Conservative, and would never consider voting Ukip, but I think Douglas Carswell deserves more credit than your rather begrudging editorial gives him (Schism-on sea, 29 August). There are exceptions, but generally voters support a party rather than an individual. As you point out, “most MPs who change party allegiance simply do so without consulting their constituents”. This is both dishonourable and, more importantly, fundamentally undemocratic.

In the absence of any right of recall, where local electorates can trigger a byelection, I hope you are right that Carswell’s decision “could break the mould”. As for the risk that his actions could end with the arrival of Ed Miliband in Downing Street, Cameron has only himself to blame. By defeating the proposed changes to our voting system that AV would have given, the option of voting 1 Ukip and 2 Conservative does not exist. How the Tories must regret that now.
Declan O’Neill

• Douglas Carswell’s attempt to secure another term in office as Clacton’s MP by defecting to Ukip will be seen by many as an opportunistic move because he sees his seat slipping away from him.

For a man who claims to be against the top-down approach of the political elite in Westminster and to fight for local democracy, his actions do not appear to match his words. We need no lectures about transparency from someone who, in conjunction with Nigel Farage, selects himself as the Ukip candidate.

Roger Lord, until now the Ukip candidate selected by local Ukip members, is reported as stating: “It’s pretty arrogant of Douglas Carswell to assume that the voters and the electorate are like sheep and they will just go along with this.”

If Mr Carswell does believe in democracy, why doesn’t he take part in a selection process and let the members of the party he is now representing make the decision of who their candidate is?

When the people of Clacton find out what Ukip’s policies are on privatising the NHS and tax breaks for the well-off, I believe they will vote for Labour.
Keith Henderson
Frinton-on-Sea, Essex

• We are told that Clacton is a viable Ukip target because its electorate contains a large number of poor white pensioners (A defection that leaves Cameron’s strategy in tatters, 29 August). This active member of the Labour party is all three and regards that observation as outrageous stereotyping.
Colin Yarnley
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

• So Nigel Farage is on the front page yet again. It would be interesting to see who heads the list of most front-page photos at the end of the year. Favourites must be Nigel, Boris and Andy Murray.
Mick Jope
Maidstone, Kent

• Is it just a strange coincidence that on the day the prime minister sees his party starting to disintegrate and desert him, he offers us the diversion of an increased threat level (New powers to tackle Isis threat, 30 August)? How is extremism actually going to be defined? Is it anyone who criticises him and his minions, or his policies, or the security services?
Kay and Barrie Thornton
Ellesmere, Shropshire

Richard Dawkins. ‘He asks what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. The answer is again simple. Both are wrong,’ writes Mary Midgley. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

The question “what is wrong with positive eugenics?” (Nobody is better at being human, Professor Dawkins, least of all you, 30 August) has a simple answer. The only good reason for having sexual intercourse at all is that you love your partner. Doing it to produce a (scientifically expectable) athletic or musical child is – as Kant put it – using the partner as a means to your own ends. In fact, it is exploiting them. And if both parties agree on the project things actually get worse, because both are then agreeing to exploit the prospective child for ends that are certainly not its own. Experience has shown how badly this can work out for the planned child. And making the planning more scientific – that is, more impersonal – would surely be likely to make things worse for it, not better.

Professor Dawkins asks what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. The answer is again simple. Both are wrong, but the former is calculated to mess up the life of an entire family much more widely.
Mary Midgley
Newcastle upon Tyne

• A huge thank-you to Giles Fraser for his thoughts on Professor Dawkins and eugenics – a beautifully written condemnation of the destructive assumption, rarely explicitly advocated but often used as a basis for decision and opinion, that eugenics is good and solves problems. Human flourishing can only come from seeing human life as sacred and the supreme and absolute good.
Canon Paul Townsend
Winchester, Hampshire

• Giles Fraser writes “nobody is better at being human, neither are there better sorts of human beings”. Does he seriously equate, on any level at all, Pol Pot with Gandhi, Torquemáda with Mother Teresa?

The only thing in his article more nonsensical is his claim that religion defends human life. No one can seriously doubt that religion, of one sort or another, has been responsible for horrifically cruel human slaughter on an unimaginable scale throughout history, right up to the present day and with every prospect that it will continue in the same vein. It is difficult to imagine anything else, short of an extinction event, being responsible for greater or more pointless human destruction.
Ian Evans

UK, passport, British, ID ‘The government’s claim that it needs new powers to deny British passports is false,’ writes Simon Cox. Photograph: Alamy

The government’s claim that it needs new powers to deny British passports is false. In April 2013 it said “passport facilities may be refused to or withdrawn from British nationals who may seek to harm the UK or its allies by travelling on a British passport to, for example, engage in terrorism-related activity or other serious or organised criminal activity”. Nothing has changed since then. No new powers are needed. The prime minister’s statements – and the legal proposals – are just to be “seen to be doing something”. This kind of politics – law reform as propaganda and distraction – undermines democratic debate.

The Guardian has not yet looked beneath these claims. Your Analysis article (How do you rein in extremists when your hands are tied?, 30 August) confuses British citizenship with possession of a British passport. These are not the same thing: the views attributed to government lawyers relate to deprivation of the former, not denial of the latter. Your front page (New powers to tackle Isis threat, 30 August) is likewise lacking in independent analysis. The political announcements are noise. By your unconsidered amplification, you help lay the ground for the security services to demand emergency laws to yet further constrain our liberties. (Those same security services who so completely failed to prepare for Isis, and yet who keep their jobs.) The Guardian has led the way in explaining Snowden. Please may we have the same attention to detail here?
Simon Cox
Migration lawyer, Open Society Justice Initiative

• Instead of new powers to tackle Isis, wouldn’t Cameron do better to focus on the fact that “Muslims in the UK suffer more than double the UK’s average poverty level” (Letters, 30 August)?
Roy Boffy
Walsall, West Midlands


Although sexual abuse of children has been widely reported recently, in children’s homes, by men in positions of power, in the entertainment industry, and within families, I have not seen a suggestion that these cultures needed investigation, as the British Pakistani community was targeted after similar criminal activity.

When British Muslims travelled to Syria and Iraq to take part in war-making and obnoxious activities, their community was again under scrutiny, which did not happen when white British soldiers were involved in torture, or when white British persons led us into illegal war.

In the UK, for decades at least, there has been a tolerance of child abuse in many situations. We also live in a culture in which war is glorified, assassination normalised, soldiers trained to kill idolised, and dehumanising and killing of “the other” in games played by children rewarded.

I don’t see it as surprising that some individuals from many backgrounds, all products of our British society, have turned to crimes such as illegal war-making, murder, and child abuse. Isn’t it time we looked at “traditional British values” to see how these contribute to attitudes of those who grow up with a distorted vision of what is normal, attracting a minority of British people to behave in an inhumane and criminal manner.

Dr Judith Brown
Farrington Gurney, Somerset

Following Rotherham and other cases of a similar nature, we need a complete retraining of all police officers and social workers.

 They cannot be allowed to continue without being given detailed training in child development, conflict resolution, survivor empathy, trauma and recovery, and the social effects of inter-generational trauma patterns.

This is now a matter of extreme urgency.

Corneilius Crowley
South Harrow, Middlesex

It is 18 years since I retired from the public service, but I can still recall vividly the obsession with “political correctness” that engulfed the Probation Service at that time; therefore I am not at all surprised by what happened in Rotherham.

Given that the perpetrators were not European they would have been untouchable because anyone making a complaint would have been considered a racist. Let us hope that from now on reason might prevail and “political correctness” is consigned to the rubbish bin.

D Sawtell
Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire


Cameron rallies the Yes vote

Alex Salmond has described David Cameron as “the No campaign incarnate”.

It seems to me the Prime Minister is doing a great job persuading people to vote Yes by stating that the Conservatives (so loved and respected north of the border) are deigning to consider giving Scotland more powers in the event of a No vote. Of course if, when and how that happens will be completely up to Westminster to decide.

This makes it clear what a nonsense it is for Scots to have their country run by a government they have not elected. Why would they even consider voting No to independence? If only I could vote in a referendum which could guarantee never again having to live under Tory rule.

Dominic Horne
Ledbury, Herefordshire

Peter Milner (letter, 29 August) foresees trouble if the Scottish referendum produces a narrow result. However, a very narrow majority will suit the Government.

The Government wants Scotland to stay in the UK. Suppose the “No” vote is 51 per cent. The Government will breathe a sigh of relief and say, “End of story”.

But suppose the “Yes” vote for independence is 51 per cent. Referendums are not legally binding on governments; they are there to test the water. The Government will say that there is no way it would be proper to grant independence on such a slender majority, as it would offend too many people and destabilise a newly independent country.

So on a narrow majority either way it will be heads the Government wins and tails Alex Salmond loses.

I would prefer Scotland to remain in the UK, but for some inexplicable reason I have no say in the matter although I am a UK citizen.

David Ashton
Shipbourne, Kent

If the Scots go independent they will no longer have any say in English politics, English finance, English membership or not of the EU, no longer be able to use the pound sterling, no longer be members of the EU (lucky things), but Scottish football managers will remain, doing their dour, cautious best managing English clubs and making many English fans miserable for another season.

Simon Icke
Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire

Language dilemma

With regard to the inexorable rise of Spanish at GCSE, which is made all the more conspicuous by the decline in the number taking GCSE French and German, you quote the chief executive of the AQA exam board, Andrew Hall, as saying that the pupils opting for Spanish are “savvy students” who are thinking “This language will really help me”, because it is “one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world”.

You also quote the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Brian Lightman, as pointing out that Spanish is a language that English pupils “find fairly easy to learn”, because it is “very similar to our own language in some ways” (“Spanish to replace French as most popular language”, 22 August).

I would argue that students opting to avoid German are not particularly savvy at all. The number of speakers of German in Europe puts the language well ahead of English and French, not to mention Spanish. Germany is the UK’s leading trading partner, and it is a major investor in UK industry (Bentley, Rolls-Royce cars, the Mini, Siemens). Many UK pupils will accompany their parents to supermarkets bearing the name Aldi or Lidl.

All of those companies are major UK employers, of course, and some include training placements in Germany as part of their recruitment strategy, in which connection a knowledge of German is a major asset.

As for Spanish being popular because it is “very similar” to English, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that English is, alongside German, the most widely spoken Germanic language. Not surprisingly, it contains a huge number of similarities with German.

If the level of advice being given to secondary schools pupils about which modern foreign language to study is as superficial as the comments made by Andrew Hall and Brian Lightman, it is not at all surprising that German languishes scandalously in third place as a GCSE level foreign language subject.

David Head
Navenby, Lincolnshire

Cot deaths and bed-sharing

Rebecca Hardy’s article of 18 August recommends bed-sharing by parents and young children. In 1991 Peter Fleming led the way in promoting “Back to Sleep” in this country, which resulted in a 70 per cent reduction in the numbers of cot deaths.

Cot death rates have again levelled out and more that 50 per cent of the deaths are now occurring when bed-sharing. Analysis suggests that most of these deaths would not have occurred had the babies not been bed-sharing.

Although the risks may be small in ideal circumstances, Nice has followed the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Dutch in recommending that parents should be made aware of the association of bed-sharing and the occurrence of sudden unexplained infant death. My hope is that the message is taken seriously, and that we see a substantial further reduction in these tragic deaths in the next few years.

Professor Robert G Carpenter
Department of Medical Statistics
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


Art is one thing, real life another

I read with the usual interest Howard Jacobson’s article (30 August) in which he explores the cathartic release that vicarious grief brings.

Once I would have agreed with him. Yes I cried at Othello’s plight, at Romeo’s distress, at the sadness of Tristan and Isolde. Then my beloved wife died and I realised that the emotions experienced through art can in no meaningful way prepare you for the sadnesses of life.

Stuart Russell


Terrorists or victims?

I am concerned about the presumption that all the young men coming back from Syria are terrorists. It is likely that some are suffering post-traumatic stress and need help.

Some will have come back disillusioned, having gone out to fight for a cause and found barbarity and cruelty instead. I hope they are being treated individually and humanely rather than demonised.

Mary Barnes
London NW5


Sir, We, the charity coalition National Voices, are launching a list of recommendations for how to achieve genuinely person-centred health and social care.

Past reforms have created fragmented, under-resourced systems which give patients, their families and their communities too little say. This is especially true of the most vulnerable people. However, there is growing evidence that care is better when people have a say in the decisions about their health, are helped to look after themselves, and can plan their care in partnership with professionals and effective services. It is increasingly accepted that overly medical, managerial care does not satisfy each individual’s need for independence, control, purpose and social contact — all vital ingredients of good health.

Real reform must start from the things that matter to people. For this, we need the next government to provide consistent leadership, more funding and stability. We must not have any more radical structural reorganisations. Instead, the government should focus on co-ordinating everyone’s efforts, so that statutory bodies, voluntary groups and local communities can work together.

Paul Farmer, Mind; Lord Adebowale, Turning Point; Chris Maker, Lupus UK; Chris Whitwell, Friends, Families and Travellers; Sally Light, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Robert Johnstone, Access Matters, Patricia Schooling, Action Against Allergy, Katherine G Whiteÿ, Addison’s Group, “Paul Springer FRSM, FRSPH”, Age Related Diseases and Health Trust, Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society, Phil Gray, ARMAÿ(Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance), Kay Boycott, Asthma UK, Sue Millman, Ataxia UK, Steve James, Avenues Trust Group, Mark Flannagan, Beating Bowel Cancer, Chris Phillips, Behcets Syndrome Society, Robert Dixon, Bladder and Bowel Foundation, Melissa Green, Bliss, Rose Thompson, BME Cancer Communities, Deborah Alsina, Bowel Cancer UK, Joy Warmington, BRAP, Marion Janner, Bright, Liz White, British Association of Skin Camouflage, Andrew Langford, British Liver Trust, Laura Guest, British Society for Rheumatology, Dr Frank Chinegwundoh MBE, Cancer Black Care, Dr Ian Stuart, Cavernoma Alliance UK, Henrietta Spalding, Changing Faces, Sue Browning, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), Alison Taylor, Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, Danielle Hamm, Compassion in Dying, Philip Lee, Epilepsy Action, Angela Geer, Epilepsy Society , Nick Westbrook, Evirias (S.E.) Limited, Bernard Reed OBE, Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES), Alastair Kent OBE, Genetic Alliance UK, Malcolm Alexander, HAPIA Healthwatch and Public Involvement Association, Liz Glenister, Hypopara UK, Jenny Hirst MBE, InDependent Diabetes Trust, Nick Turkentine, James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer , Karen Friett, Lymphoedema Support Network, Mike Hobday, Macmillan Cancer Support, Kathy Roberts, Mental Health Providers Forum, Nick Rijke, MS Society, Margaret Bowler SRN SCM, Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group, Susie Parsons, NAT (National AIDS Trust), “Debbie Cook MPA, ACIS “, National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS), Claire Henry, National Council for Palliative Care & Dying Matters, NeilÿCleeveley, NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action), Ailsa Bosworth, NRAS (National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society), Heather Wallace , Pain Concern, Christine Hughes, Pain UK, Steve Ford, Parkinson’s UK, Sue Farrington, Patient Information Forum, Dr James Munro, Patient Opinion, Tess Harris, PKD Charity, Jim Phillips, Qismet, Mark Winstanley, Rethink, “Dr David Branford PhD, FRPHarmsS, FCMHP”, Royal Pharmaceutical Society , Amy Baker, Sclerodoma Society, Sarah Collis, Self Help Connect UK, John Murray, Specialised Healthcare Alliance, Anna McEwen, Shared Lives Plus, Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Terrence Higgins Trust, Liz Carroll, The Haemophilia Society, Heidi Wilson, The I Have IIH Foundation, Mike Oliver, The Keratoconus Group, Wendy Thomas, The Migraine Trust, Dom Weinberg, The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), Liz McElligott, The National Counselling Society, Elspeth Lax, The PXE Support Group – PiXiE, Andrew Fletcher, Together for Short Lives, Barbara Babcock, Transverse Myelitis Society, David Pink, UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), Lucie Russell, YoungMinds, Jeremy Taylor, National Voices,

Sir, If the grammar schools had not been destroyed we would not now be having a debate about public schools producing our elite (“Old boys and girls still take top jobs”, Aug 28).

Chris Reaney
Marlborough, Wilts

Sir, My grandfather, an upholsterer, left school at 14. His son, my father, won a scholarship to a grammar school and went on to teach Classics after Durham University. My father and mother saved to send me to an independent day school whence I went to Oxford and became a judge.

Does the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission really think it just that my father and I should have been artificially impeded in our careers because of our education.

His Honour Gerald Clifton
Heswall, Wirral

Sir, One day there are not enough students from disadvantaged backgrounds at Oxbridge; the next day there are too many Oxbridge-educated people in high places. Is this a plot to keep the poor in their place, or the effect of the chop logic course in PPE?

Peter Williams
Malvern, Worcs

Sir, It should be no surprise that years of work to open the leading professions have done little to dislodge the privately educated. Anthony Sampson said a decade ago that independent schools are now open to the wealthy and clever too, a formidable combination.

Being clever from a disadvantaged background will not get you into an independent school and thence into Oxbridge and the professions. Some independent schools help with financial assistance and/or sponsoring academies. In Kent, several independent schools, helped by the Sutton Trust, have set up the Kent Academies Network, to provide mentoring and summer schools for academy pupils. The scheme also involves Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, which sees it as a way of promoting open access to the college and other universities. This initiative will inevitably be limited by the availability of finance and the schools’ resources.

What is the solution to this lack of social mobility? Sampson identified a major cause of the problem as the closure of the grammar schools in the 1970s, which led to independent schools reasserting themselves. So a big part of a countrywide solution would be to open more grammar schools. This would not adversely affect the independent schools, as it would give them more opportunities for pursuing schemes like the Kent network. What a pity that, despite Michael Gove’s splendid reforms, the government is currently opposed to creating more grammar schools — surely the greatest engine of social mobility we have ever seen.

Looking at your statistics on MPs’ educational backgrounds, could it be that they want to preserve the system of “jobs for the boys (and girls)”?

Ian Hitchen

Sir, I was interested to read how the privately educated still take the top jobs. While I agree that these jobs should be open for all-comers, top positions need well educated and informed applicants. It is not the fault of private schools that their alumni take precedence. The fault lies with the government which consistently fails to provide a top-class education for the majority of pupils. So many intelligent and capable pupils fall by the wayside.

Sharon Pache
Terling, Essex

Sir, As an impartial, politically neutral humanitarian organisation, Save the Children has not taken, and never will take, sides in the Gaza conflict, or any other conflict that we are responding to worldwide (“You don’t save children by arming terrorists”, Aug 28).

I thoroughly condemn Hamas for its indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel. We have consistently called for a permanent ceasefire from both sides, particularly for an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas due to the harm caused to children in both Gaza and Israel. Our call to lift the blockade on Gaza is shared by the UN and many leaders including David Cameron and William Hague. Save the Children calls for the end of the blockade because it is causing severe hardships and harming children and their families.

Justin Forsyth

Save the Children

Sir, Matthew Syed (Aug 25) explains why we should never tarnish whole communities on the basis of the crimes of a few. I think Paul Kohler, the academic who was savagely beaten recently (allegedly by Poles) magnificently epitomised this sentiment. When a Polish woman, in faltering English, apologised on behalf of her nation, he held her hand and told her it wasn’t her fault, as who would be judged by the worst people in their society?

Lesley Russell
Kingston upon Thames

Sir, You report that having banned vacuum cleaners with motors above 1,600 watts, the EU energy commissioner is now considering similar limits for other electrical devices “to try to slow climate change” (“Hairdryers may be next on hit list in EU power game”, Aug 29)

Such bans are absurd for two reasons. First, lower wattage does not guarantee reduced electricity consumption. For example, boiling a kettle of water with half the wattage will take twice as long, and the total electricity consumed will be the same. And a less powerful cleaner might be used for longer as it takes longer to pick up a given quantity of dust

Second, electrical devices do not, of course, emit CO2. It is the power stations that generate the electricity that do, but only the gas and coal-fired ones. Renewable and nuclear produce negligible amounts. The variation among EU countries in the proportion of their electricity generated by renewables, not counting nuclear, ranges from over 70 per cent for Austria to about 12 per cent for the UK. This makes a nonsense of having a directive treating all countries the same

David Terry

Droitwich, Worcs

Sir, My admiration for Colonel Benest (letter, Aug 29) knows no bounds but I wonder whether he is old enough to remember hobnailed ammunition boots. The mighty crash of a well-drilled company coming to attention and the noise we made marching on a hard road chivvied by our NCO were a pleasure which I fashionably denied at the time, but was shared by most of my comrades. I wonder if it would be possible to use hobnailed boots for ceremonial occasions rather than the carpet slippers which have shuffled in to replace them.

Antony Stanley Clarke

Mosterton, Dorset


SIR – The Home Secretary is right to condemn social workers, council bosses and police chiefs who failed in their duty to protect the children of Rotherham.

To prevent such blatant neglect of duty ever happening again, those deemed culpable should not just be allowed to resign and effectively get away with it; they should be forcibly sacked and any pension accrued severely reduced.

Only with such draconian measures will those in authority throughout the country be incentivised not to sweep things under the carpet in future.

B J Colby

SIR – This year alone we have had the export of extremism, the Trojan horse affair in education in Birmingham, and now the horrors of Rotherham – all because of a reticence, or even fear, of treading on the sensibilities of ethnic minorities.

This has come about as a direct result of the determination in the last three decades to establish multiculturalism: the notion that all cultures are equal, that there is no such thing as a host-nation culture to which all foreign-comers should be prepared to adapt.

It is now surely obvious, even to the most hardened ideologue of the Left, that the process has been an abject failure.

Edward Thomas
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Out-of-control borders

SIR – I was not surprised to read the headline “UK border controls in chaos”.

I recently came across an encampment of tents and at least 15 young Asian men in a hidden area of Fryent Country Park in Middlesex. They were not pleased to be seen and only one man appeared to understand English.

Suspecting they were illegal immigrants, I contacted the police. I was told to contact Immigration Services, where there was no response on Sunday and, once I got through on Monday, no option to report finding immigrants.

Perhaps if the public was encouraged or even allowed to report illegal immigrants, they would be less keen to come here in the first place.

Dr R E Alexander
London NW9

SIR – We have been hearing about chaos in border control for years. Unlike most countries, Britain does not require passport checks upon departure, so we have no idea how many people who came in on valid tourist visas have overstayed. This is utterly ridiculous.

Ramji Abinashi
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

No avoiding Assad

SIR – The Foreign Secretary is reluctant to join forces with Bashar al-Assad to fight Isil, but in 1942, when Hitler invaded Russia, we made a pact with Stalin. Winston Churchill said he would make a pact with the Devil if Hitler invaded Hell.

Churchill was right then. Philip Hammond is wrong now.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

So long, seagulls

SIR – I feel it necessary to point out that gull control methods successfully pioneered by Dumfries and Galloway Council over the last six years have related not to egg pricking, but nest and egg removal.

This method has been closely monitored by an independent expert and representatives of the Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage. The removal of several thousand eggs and subsequent disturbance to breeding gulls is now beginning to produce the desired results.

There is a cost to this service and it is reliant on easy access to buildings and the cooperation of property owners, but we believe it is the only non-lethal way of controlling this increasing problem.

Martin G Taylor
Environmental Health Services, Dumfries and Galloway Council

SIR – R J Ardern calls for stricter controls of gulls, but it is humans who are mostly at fault. The 1956 Clean Air Act prevented rubbish-tip operators burning waste, so gulls took advantage of the huge amount of organic material sent to landfill instead.

We can deter seagulls by reducing the amount we throw away, preventing street littering, and making public waste bins and collection arrangements “gull-proof”. Those best placed to do this are landfill companies, local authorities and statutory bodies with a wildlife management remit, but the behaviour of individuals is also important.

All bar one of the British gull species are of amber-listed conservation concern. The herring gull – to many, the sound of our seaside – is a red-listed species and its population is still plummeting. Can we imagine a British coastline devoid of its evocative calls?

Ed Hutchings
Stoke-by-Nayland, Essex

Burn it, don’t waste it

SIR – Burning waste in special incinerators prevents noxious fumes from entering the atmosphere and generates electricity, lessening the amount of fossil fuels that need to be extracted from the ground. The ash left behind is also a valuable commodity, containing elements that can be re-used in industry.

Land is too valuable to use for landfill sites. We should be building more waste incinerators as well as continuing to sell our valuable waste overseas.

Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire

Scottish civil service mantras sound Soviet

SIR – The politicisation of the civil service in Scotland is a worrying trend.

Scottish government ministers’ wearisome and meaningless mantra that independence will make the country “a freer and more just society” is totally at odds with their policy of making government function as “a single institution”, and smacks of the authoritarian regimes which rule some of the former Soviet republics. It’s a grim prospect of what Scotland could be letting itself in for if there isn’t a resounding No vote in the forthcoming referendum.

Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

SIR – I would like to ask Alex Salmond: 1) Would an independent Scotland divorce itself from any further UK involvement in conflicts in the Middle East, and 2) Could an independent Scotland succeed where the UK has so dismally failed in securing its borders and limiting immigration?

If his answer to these questions was “yes”, and I was a Scot, I would vote for independence, irrespective of economic considerations.

John Cottrell
Addlestone, Surrey

SIR – You state that “the final decision whether or not Scotland leaves the Union is, rightly, left in the hands of the Scottish people” Who are these Scottish people?

I was born and educated in Glasgow and have lived in England for many years. I have always considered myself to be a Scot who is a citizen of the United Kingdom. How is it possible that someone from Outer Mongolia who moved to Scotland in the last few years has a vote, but I don’t?

Derek Leithead
West Byfleet, Surrey

Basic clichés

SIR — The use of “So” to begin the answer to a question is undeniably irritating, but less so than its predecessor, the excruciatingly clichéd “Well, basically”.

T G Jones
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – Why do people ask, when buying a drink in a pub, “Can I get a pint of…?” The bar staff are there to get your drink for you.

Andy Watson
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I should have thought that for someone emigrating to France to say “See you later” was most appropriate (Letters, August 24).

What on earth does Jane Scott think “Au revoir” means?

Dave Day
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

SIR – As a secondary modern boy who worked his way up through the theatre ranks to become director of the Council of Regional Theatre and then moved into management at the BBC, I fully endorse what Ben Stephenson, head of BBC drama commissioning, had to say about the acting profession not reflecting the real world.

Back in the days when we had repertory theatres, the true training grounds for the country’s actors, in every major city and town, people from all sectors of society took to the boards. In those days we could all see the eventual effect that television would have on the acting profession: not only a diminishing theatre audience, but a siphoning-off of local talent, thus making the theatre more reliant on those who could afford to have expensive drama training.

It is a sad state of affairs when a majority of our actors come from the so-called “posh” schools as this skews what should be an egalitarian profession appealing to a broad cross-section of the population.

The simple answer is for both television and the cinema to fund scholarships so we do not miss out on the Dora Bryans and the Bob Hoskinses of the future.

Vin Harrop
Billericay, Essex

Irish Times:

A chara, – I was astonished to read Carter Dillard (August 28th) defending China’s one child policy by solemnly quoting a UN estimate of a world population of 256 billion by 2050 based on 1995 fertility rates. I remember the report; and I also remember being told as a child that if all the offspring and descendants of one breeding pair of flies were to survive and breed themselves, the Earth would be knee deep in flies at the end of a year. Both may have been put forward as theoretical possibilities, but no one thought them in any way likely to happen.

Under the doomsday scenario Mr Dillard mentions, the population of Africa would have been rocketing towards 169 billion. The present population of that continent is around 1.1 billion, up from 719 million in 1995. At that rate of growth we don’t have to worry about reaching the doomsday number anytime soon. And no country in Africa has employed China’s draconian measures to curb growth.

Ever since Thomas Malthus produced his An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, people have been scare-mongering about the dangers of population growth and how the world is going to run out of resources. Over 200 years of lived experience should serve to put those fears to rest. It’s time to accept the reality that the Earth’s population, while it is rising, is doing so at a rate we have shown we can cope with. – Is mise,


Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – I was born within 25 metres of the Barrow Line in the early 1940s. I can remember the Grand Canal as a working entity, with barges travelling up and down the waterway. I learned to fish and swim along the line in my early teens. By the time I emigrated in the early 1960s, the canal was derelict, the line overgrown and unusable and the waters unfit for swimming.

I have just returned from visiting family in Finland. My daughter, her husband and three children, aged seven, five and two, had just completed a short camping and cycling break covering about 250km over four days, all of which the seven-year-old was able to cycle unaided, principally due to the efficient network of cycling tracks, also used by walkers, available to them. They could also avail of serviced campsites and food and drink outlets along the way.

The Barrow Line lends itself perfectly to the development of this sort of activity for both residents and tourists alike. There is the potential to tie into the Blackstairs Mountain range and, through Bunclody and Enniscorthy, a 1798 heritage trail, leading to Wicklow and by way of Celbridge and Maynooth, linking up with the Royal Canal pathway and ultimately the Western Way.

There is the potential for landowners along the way to provide serviced campsites and also the potential for the development of coarse and game fishing. As we are unlikely to ever become a sun-seeker’s destination, this is the sort of activity-based development Tourism Ireland should be pursuing. It is popular and eco friendly. How to do it? Could I suggest having a look at Finland? – Yours, etc,



Tuam, Co Galway.

Sir, – Brendan O’Donoghue (August 15th) is right to point out that tax relief on medical expenses is no use if you don’t earn enough to pay tax. However this is but one of the many inequities caused by our threshold-based social support system.

For example, if an aspiring student from a very disadvantaged background takes a summer job and earns, say, €1,000, they could easily find that their family income, which is used to calculate grant eligibility, then exceeds the threshold for the highest rate of grant. This could result in a loss of almost €3,000, giving a marginal tax rate of 300 per cent. This is unjust and unnecessary.

Unjust because no one should face such confiscatory levels of tax.

After all, we are repeatedly told that at a marginal rate of 60 per cent our highest earners would lose the “incentive to work”.

Unnecessary because the single step-like cut-off arrangement is a hangover from pre-computer days when eligibility had to be calculated manually.

It is a trivial IT problem to arrange for a graduated payment of benefits so that those marginally above the limit receive some (reduced) benefit. Of course, if this change is to be revenue-neutral, those just below the limit will see some reduction in benefit also. Similar changes across a range of benefits would together deliver increased equity and economic efficiency. – Yours, etc,


Castletroy Heights,


Sir, – My husband died this year, in mid-May. Within days, I began the administration, including advising AIB to close his account. Obviously, all standing orders to be cancelled. However, without funds in the (now dormant) account, AIB paid the following month’s rent on our apartment.

Three phone calls and a personal visit followed, where I produced all paperwork, including an original death certificate.

By mid-June, my husband’s death had been recorded and noted by at least four AIB employees. I had agreed, even though the mistake was theirs, to repay the amount of the rent, once I had my affairs in order. Next, a letter arrived, dated July 3rd. The Dickensian wording announced: “Notification issued pursuant to applicable law”.

It was addressed to and advised my dead husband in stern tones that his account was overdrawn and that steps would be taken.

An embarrassed woman at AIB assured me that the bereavement section would contact me to discuss this dreadful and distressing error. No follow-up call ever came.

The agency that manages rentals in my building has just informed me that AIB has, without any further reference to me, contacted the proprietor of my apartment, requesting the return of the rent it paid in error.

At one of the most stressful times in my life, I have made every effort in this debacle. AIB has demonstrated a stunning lack of efficiency at every turn. Now they have shown a complete lack of scruple, not to mention the absence of that old-fashioned thing, compassion. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Further to Ann Marie Hourihane’s “Most tourists want to hear the real Dub accent” (August 29th) on the Learning for Life programme, Diageo is the ideal company for it. After all, as Guinness, it has a track record in youth employment going back to 1901. Initially confined to the sons of Guinness employees, it was not long before it became an open competition. The Guinness exam, as it was called, continued until 1968, at which stage free secondary education rendered it surplus to requirements.

The Guinness exam became an institution in working-class Dublin. Over the years thousands of young men between the ages of 14 and 15 sat the exam, and some 4,000 to 5,000 were successful, and went on to work there in different parts of the company.

However, not content with providing essential job experience, the young men were expected to continue their education. The company paid the fees for whatever area of education chosen, and success in the particular exams was rewarded.

I sometimes feel that there is a case to be made for some version of the above: it is quite clear that a significant percentage of teenagers are not academically inclined and frequently drop out of school early. A scheme similar to the Guinness exam might be a way of giving these young people an incentive to work and study.

In conclusion, may I wish the 15 people on the “Learning for Life Programme” continued success. – Yours, etc,



Templeogue, Dublin 16.

Sir, – May I add to Patsy McGarry’s discussion of the cappuccino (“In a word”, August, 25th)?

The drink originated as the coffee beverage kapuziner in the Viennese coffee houses of the 1700s though it is now known in Vienna as a melange, but in northern Italy, which used to belong to Austria, it is called a café Viennois.

Cappuccino as we write it today (in Italian) was first mentioned in Italy in the 1930s following the introduction of espresso machines.

It’s enough to make you reach for an Irish coffee, but that’s another story.

The entertaining myth that the name derived from Marco d’Aviano, the Capuchin preacher and miracle worker, emerged only in the 1990s during the process for his beatification.

It is true that the many bags of coffee abandoned by the OttomanTurks after their 1683 defeat in the Battle of Vienna led to the opening of local coffee houses that flourish to this day, and in one of which this letter is written – over a caffé latte. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The ice bucket challenge is cold, but the enormous goodwill it has spread throughout the country, not to mention the vast amount of money which is still pouring in for motor neuron research – it has topped the million euro mark – would warm the cockles of one’s heart.

I am sure I speak for everyone who suffers from motor neuron disease – I got my diagnosis 14 years ago – when I say a heartfelt thanks to all of you, young and old, including my own grandchildren and their friends, for taking up the challenge and donating money to fund research into this cruel disease. As yet, there is no cure for motor neuron disease. The cause is unknown and, indeed, apart from the tender loving care given by family, friends and medical personnel, there is no treatment. It is uplifting to know that, with your help, sooner rather than later, research will discover the cause of this dreaded disease. Then, of course, a cure will follow! Mile buíochas díobh uilig. – Yours, etc,


Foster Avenue,

Mount Merrion,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – We had reason to attend Barretstown recently for a few days on a camp with our daughter.

The whole experience was inspiring from start to finish. The setting of the facility, the engagement and understanding of all staff, including team leaders and volunteers who were on hand at all times with every conceivable offer of help, had to be seen and experienced to be believed.

The range of appropriate activities, coupled with top-class catering, made for a wonderful all-round experience.

This is its 20th year since it was established by its founder Paul Newman. When one considers it survives almost totally through voluntary assistance, and the support it receives from the general public through various fundraising efforts, one cannot but be impressed.

It is run on the most professional and cost-effective basis.

Against the background of recent controversies connected to the charitable sector in general, it is most important to highlight the good that is being done. – Yours, etc,



Moyglare Village,


Sir, – A recent report published in Foreign Affairs magazine contends that it may make more sense for the International Monetary Fund and central banks to give money directly to households as oppose to banks. This extra money would improve the budgets of these individual households, allowing them to spend more, thus helping the local economy, or pay down debts, thus improving banks’ balance sheets.

This idea was previously muted by Jon Stewart some years ago. Mr Stewart is an American comedian and host of The Daily Show.

Makes you wonder who we should be really listening to! – Yours, etc,


The Old Rectory,


Co Louth.

Sir, – Although we can’t solve the mystery of the first World War painting The Last General Absolution of the Munsters at Rue du Boi (“Painting of first World War blessing stirs memories”, August 23rd), it may interest your readers to note that Rev Gleeson’s class photograph and matriculation information can be found in the archive of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

The exhibition “Maynooth College 1914-1918” in the Russell Library showcases this and other fascinating material. – Yours, etc,


Senior Librarian,

Maynooth University


Co Kildare.

Irish Independent:

Your August 29 news item reporting the unveiling of a Cahersiveen memorial plaque in honour of Daniel O’Connell coincides with news that pressure is growing for a similar public mark of recognition in London.

When Francis Campbell, former British Ambassador to the Vatican, took over the leadership of London‘s St Mary’s University earlier this month, he gave several newspaper interviews.

In the course of these interviews he called for the erection of a statue in London’s Parliament Square in honour of Mr O’Connell.

The timing of the suggestion coincides with the recent announcement of British government plans to create a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, who acknowledged the inspiration of O’Connell in his own non-violent civil rights struggle for national freedom.

Over 100 years ago the Catholic parish church of Cahersiveen was officially named Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church of the Holy Cross in recognition of O’Connell’s human rights leadership in both Ireland and Britain. The time is surely right for Britain to recognise this outstanding member of the House of Commons, and I urge Irish Independent readers to support this campaign.Alan Whelan,Heronsforde, London Boom led to Ireland’s decline

Fred Meaney highlights the fact that “there are so many things in our society that are not acceptable” (Letters, August 30).

He fails to mention the fact that all of these problems were made much worse by the bankrupting of the country by the decisions of a small number of its most powerful citizens during the years of the boom. The biggest calamity since independence was missed by those who are now complaining about its consequences.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

A return to ‘puke football’

For the last week I looked forward to the replay of the SFC semi-final. I, along with many others, thought it very unfair to ask these warriors to go back out within six days and go to war once again, especially as they are amateurs.

However, both sets of players, like so many times in the past, just wanted to wear the county jersey with pride and worry about injuries later. Though the game between Kerry and Mayo was exciting it was – as best described some years ago by the game’s finest-ever footballer – ‘puke football’. I can’t ever remember seeing any team engage in so much pulling and dragging. It certainly had little to do with football.

The winners of yesterday’s semi-final will sleep easy in their beds and not have too many nightmares, I’m sure.

Fred Molloy, Glenville, Dublin 15

Obama must stand up to Putin

US President Barack Obama needs to grow a spine, take a leaf from Reaganist foreign policy, and meet expansionist Russian President Vladimir Putin head on. Send American soldiers to Ukraine – at Kiev’s request, of course – and call Putin’s bluff. No Russian soldier will kill an American one outside a declared state of war, in the knowledge that to do so would itself create that state of war.

With their advance halted by an American presence, backed by the 10,000-odd soldiers NATO is mobilising in the area, any further Russian incursions will be prevented, and an end will have been put to this episode once and for all.

Killian Foley-Walsh, Kilkenny city

Squeezed middle have it easy

References to the so-called squeezed middle in pursuit of a particular agenda simply don’t bear scrutiny. Many of these people or families have a weekly income, after tax, of €1,000 or more, when tax breaks and the very significant college fee subsidy are taken into account. Yet many families have to get by on a weekly income of less than a third of that.

These are the people who are truly being squeezed. At this back-to-school time they will be driven, by sheer need, into the arms of moneylenders. In fact, they are regularly squeezed till they cry out in pain, at which point gardai are often called.

They did not have the capital to take part in an irresponsible property investment binge, yet they have ended up paying for one, ironically. The so-called squeezed middle might, more accurately, be referred to as ‘middle income, high expectation’.

Cadhla Ni Frithile, Clonard, Wexford

Fishing not an option in Famine

Tommy Shields (Letters, August 29) tells how upon visiting a museum in Kerry he happened upon two words – “fishing failed” in relation to the Great Famine. “Surely fishing could not have failed all around the coasts of Ireland?” he asked.

The Famine had its most devastating effect in the west of Ireland. Unfortunately the west coast also has our most treacherous waters.

By the time of the Famine, Ireland had been deforested and timber was at a premium. The only boat available to the inhabitants was the curragh – a small boat made of animal hide covering a light timber frame. These boats were incapable of deep sea fishing and were extremely dangerous in the Atlantic Ocean.

Another problem was the lack of refrigeration and the high cost of preservation salts. In effect, this meant that, even if large quantities of fish had been caught, there was no means of preserving for transport inland.

John Bellew, Dunleer, Co Louth

Ryanair check-ins ‘unfair’

I am appalled by the way in which Ryanair is now operating online check-ins. While checking in online for my trip on August 30 from Dublin to Zadar, in Croatia, I found that I could not check in for my return flight and print the boarding pass until seven days and two hours before departure.

What this means is, that in order to print my return boarding pass before leaving the country, I have to pay €5 per person per seat for the privilege of printing the relevant pass.

Where I am travelling to in Zadar has no internet access and my departing flight leaves early in the morning on August 30 (the only time I could possibly print the pass while still in Ireland). I think this new practice is very unfair

Margaret Jacob, Address with Editor

Time to act on hare coursing

The Minister for Arts and Heritage, Heather Humphreys, has a peculiar attitude to the preservation and protection of wildlife.

On August 13, she condemned the illegal shooting of a protected peregrine falcon. She stated: “It is intolerable for birds of prey and other wildlife to be persecuted, poisoned or shot”. She also expressed concern that the incident might impugn our international image as a nation that treasures its wildlife heritage.

Less than 48 hours later, Ms Humphreys issued a licence permitting the capture of hares for coursing, in which they will serve as live bait for greyhounds. Thousands of the timid creatures will be netted in the Irish countryside. A percentage will die in the struggle to break free and others will perish in captivity. And on coursing day a percentage will be mauled or forcibly struck by the muzzled but hyped-up greyhounds.

The minister issued the hare coursing licence despite numerous appeals from animal protection and conservation groups not to do so.

John Fitzgerald, Callan, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent

Sydney Newman

August 31, 2014

31 August 2014 Sydney Newman

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I post a box of boos

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, trout leg for tea and her back pain is a little better and she manages tea a table.


Klaus Zapf – obituary

Klaus Zapf was a multi-millionaire businessman who idolised Lenin, did his shopping at Aldi and said he lived on £60 a week

Klaus Zapf

Klaus Zapf Photo: DPA

7:15PM BST 29 Aug 2014


Klaus Zapf, who has died of a heart attack aged 62, was a German entrepreneur known as the “King of Movers”. As the founder and co-owner of Zapf Umzuge, one of the largest relocation companies in Europe (with 60,000 customers each year), Zapf built up a multi-million-euro business empire and a personal fortune estimated at £10 million. The rewards of his endeavours, however, held little appeal: “I don’t need money,” he said. “It just makes us unequal.”

Zapf’s thrifty approach informed his domestic situation (he rented a modest flat) and living expenses: he was reported to have lived on approximately £240 a month. His prudence extended to shopping at Aldi and collecting empty bottles on which there was a return deposit. “There are just so many bloody idiots with money around,” he declared. “You don’t need another one.”

His appearance matched his frugal behaviour. He arrived at newspaper interviews and television talk shows wearing track suits, shorts and baseball caps. His ivory-white beard grew so long that it trailed off at an angle like a snow drift. Perhaps his only concession to style was a pair of chunky wraparound black glasses which only made him look like a tramp who had rummaged through the bins at Prada.

This was not, however, a pose or a simple lack of pride in appearance. At the heart of Zapf’s hippyish counter-culture image was a set of Left-wing ideals that had grown out of his studies at university in Berlin during the early 1970s. In later life Zapf’s anti-establishment instincts drove him to become what the German media termed a “professional plaintiff” — a litigious shareholder who repeatedly engages companies in protracted legal proceedings to extract substantial buy-offs. There are reported to be between 10 and 30 such plaintiffs active in Germany. Klaus Zapf sued various corporations, including Altana, Axel Springer, AXA, Intertainment Media and Karmann.

Fighting capitalism from within — armed with investments funded by the success of his own business — was the kind of action of which Zapf’s hero, Vladimir Lenin, would no doubt have approved. Zapf had a giant statue of the Russian revolutionary erected in the courtyard of his company’s headquarters in Berlin.

A sculpture of Lenin in the yard of the moving company Zapf in Berlin

Klaus Emil Heinrich Zapf was born on May 17 1952 at Bad Rappenau in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. In the early 1970s he moved from Eppingen to Berlin in a bid to avoid military service (men resident within its boundaries were exempt) and studied Law at the Free University of Berlin. It was there that he was reported to have become “deeply involved” in Left-wing politics and a follower of Rudi Dutschke, the Marxist sociologist and spokesman for the West German student movement of the 1960s.

During his time as a student Zapf worked in bars and as a labourer. It was while moving furniture that he first thought of setting up his own removals company — he dropped out of university to found Zapf Umzuge in 1975. He never obtained a driving licence, and in the early years he did the loading and unloading while others drove their decrepit old Transit van. “Here the delusions of grandeur are healed every day,” he said of his company.

He set up a central logistics depot in Berlin on the hunch that the country’s capital would move there from Bonn after unification in 1990. It was a shrewd move. Zapf Umzuge now has offices in 14 locations and their blue-and-yellow vans have become ubiquitous in Germany.

Zapf once described the firm as “West Berlin’s best removals collective”, while the signage on his vans boasted “Zapf Removals — Owned by the Employees”. Socialist principles were maintained: employees benefited from a profit-share scheme and customers from working-class districts were offered a reduced rate. However, Zapf clearly appeared uncomfortable with success, describing himself as belonging to the “proletarian elite”.

His later legal actions led to criticism from many commentators in the financial world. A spokesman for SdK (a German association for small shareholders) claimed that so-called “professional plaintiffs” were driven by greed and “a perverse passion for tribunals” rather than by ideology. Zapf was accused of “abusing the law” during one such case (in 2008, against Nanoinvest).

Zapf claimed that he identified with August, the protagonist of a trilogy of novels by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun: “August is a tireless navigator and braggart,” said Zapf. “He satirised the economic world, which was fine by me.” In an interview earlier this year Zapf said that his “last move will be to the cemetery in Eppingen”.

Zapf, who married three times, died from a heart attack on his third honeymoon. He is survived by his wife, an astrologer, Ingrid Reimold, and a daughter.

Klaus Zapf, born May 17 1952, died August 20 2014


A laboratory rat used in animal testing. Photograph: JG Photography /Alamy

Your excellent article “Could tech end animal-based drugs testing?” (New Review) underlines why new medicines are still tested on animals, namely the courtroom argument: “Would you be happy standing up in a court of law to explain why you hadn’t tested this drug on animals?”

A landmark study published last month shows that apparent safety in animal tests provides no assurance of human safety. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) kill hundreds of thousands of people every year and hospitalise millions. The belief that “animal tests are the best we have” is revealed as unfounded and dangerous.

New technologies can predict subtle risks that animal tests cannot. Many are already available and could be saving lives. Governments should replace mandatory animal-testing requirements with an obligation to use the most reliably proved methods available. Patients would benefit, health services would save billions, animals would be spared and pharmaceutical companies could develop safer medicines at a fraction of current unsustainable time and costs.

Kathy Archibald director, Safer Medicines Trust, Kingsbridge; Dr Kelly BéruBé director, Lung & Particle Research Group, Cardiff University; Dr Bob Coleman UK science director, Safer Medicines Trust; Professor Michael Coleman School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University

Professor Chris Foster Emeritus Professor of Pathology, Liverpool University and Medical Director, HCA Pathology Laboratories

Professor Barbara Pierscionek Associate Dean of Research and Enterprise, Kingston University Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing

Professor Gareth Sanger Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Katya Tsaioun US Science Director, Safer Medicines Trust

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh

A tribute to foreign troops

I forwarded David Olusoga’s article about non-European troops in the First World War (“Foreign fighters tell us a different story from the trenches“, Comment) to my 93-year-old father. I think his response speaks for itself: “Very good article. A similar attitude prevails, not quite as widely, about World War Two. But not with many people like myself who fought alongside Dominion and Colonial troops. I will never forget my days in support of the 5th Indian Brigade, putting tank 75mm gunfire down on German positions as a battalion of Sikhs passed through us to attack the high ground. They smiled and waved.  Some 30 minutes later, as we began to follow them in, their stretcher bearers were returning laden with their dead and seriously wounded. No one like me will ever have anything but a deep feeling of comradeship and equality for these great soldiers. The same feelings reside for ever about New Zealanders, Australians, South, East and West Africans, Rhodesians, Canadians and many from smaller countries too.”

Duncan Toms


Understanding mental illness

I’m delighted that Elizabeth Day (“Why do we talk of the ‘stigma’ of mental illness“, Comment) sees the stigma of mental illness receding. I contributed to Stigma Shout in 2008, a piece of research that found stigma and discrimination widespread amongst employers, friends and family and institutions such as the NHS. Then, nine in 10 people with mental health problems reported its negative impact on their lives.

The report helped launch Time to Change, a campaign led by people with direct experience of the problem. The campaign has had a big impact, with stigma becoming less of a problem for many as a result of so many more people talking about their experiences and so many more people refusing to accept discrimination.

It would be a great shame if we stopped talking and stopped demanding now, just because things have got a little bit better.

Paul Corry


Don’t hide behind the shutter

I enjoyed John Naughton’s fascinating but indulgent article on the history of the Leica camera (“Me and my Leica“, New Review).

But when I looked at his photo of the small, despondent Irish boy in a caravan park in Kerry I was also despondent when I read Naughton’s rationale for taking the picture. Nobody wanted to play football with him but Naughton saw it as a photo-opportunity and his picture as a “metaphor” for the EU austerity regime imposed on Ireland.

Sometimes, life makes demands on you and observing it from behind a camera lens, even if it’s a Leica, is not enough. Naughton should have put down his camera and kicked a football with the boy.

Simon Newton


Go with the flow of the fauna

Efforts to curb invasive species spark battle in the countryside” (News) led me to wonder not merely whether we are countering the threat of invasive species in the right way, but whether we should actually be doing it at all. Throughout the history of life on Earth, new species have been colonising parts of the planet to which they are suited.  That has sometimes involved displacing other species.  This process is perfectly normal and is usually known as natural selection.

The likelihood is that if we insist on preserving native species at the expense of all potential newcomers, we will end up with flora and fauna unsuited to our environment, particularly at this present time of rapid climate change.

The reality is that we should be welcoming or at least accepting the ingress of species better suited to the UK’s changed environment than (current) native species as one of the tools to help us respond to climate change.

Richard Williams

Kingston upon Thames


East Coast trains at York station. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Observer

Will Hutton is bang on the money – “Stop fleecing passengers: bring the trains back under public control” (Comment). He will be pleased to know that the Green party has as its policy exactly what he is calling for: renationalising the railways. We favour bringing the railways back into public control by the economical means of simply waiting for the current franchises to lapse and then taking them at that time back into state hands. That way, the surplus that the East Coast Mainline is delivering for taxpayers will be replicated across the network and we won’t have to put up with the penny-pinching profiteering that characterises Britain’s trains at present.

Even at busy times, most train operators in most of Britain’s stations that have ticket barriers will not “open up” those ticket barriers even if some of the ticket gates are malfunctioning and even if they have insufficient staff to man them.

This happens because the company doesn’t seem to care a jot about passengers having to queue pointlessly for the privilege merely of getting on to and off the platforms.

All it cares about is the bottom line; it has evidently calculated (though perhaps wrongly) that the money it saves on cutting staff and not maintaining ticket gates in good working order is more than the money it loses from continually royally pissing off passengers in this way.

Rupert Read

Green party national transport spokesman, Norwich

Will Hutton is wrong to claim that train companies are nothing more than “short-term value extractors”.

He misses the point that under the current public/private partnership in rail, train operator profits have fallen in real terms from £270m in 1997-98 to £250m in 2012-13, which represents an average operating margin now below 3%. Over the same period, money paid by operators to government to reinvest in services has increased fivefold from £390m to £1.96bn. In fact, 97% of the fares people pay go back into the railway to help pay for more and better services as part of one of the biggest periods of sustained rail investment.

In addition, train companies, among them Virgin Trains, pay UK tax on profits. A recent report into rail industry finances prepared by economic consultants Oxera found that the railway and its supply chain pay £3.9bn a year in tax, offsetting nearly all of the £4bn the government provides to support train operations.

Far from being a “costly debacle”, Britain’s unique public/private partnership approach to running the railway has helped create a renaissance in rail travel. Annual passenger journey numbers have doubled over the last 15 years.

Michael Roberts

Director general of the Rail Delivery Group

London EC1A

Will Hutton notes that the right to run privatised monopoly railway services “had to be” temporary, with periodic competition for the renewal of each franchise. But when the other monopoly service, water supply, was privatised there was no such provision. This was never a nationalised service, most of its assets having been the fruit of vigorous local authority enterprise, sometimes when private companies had proved unable to cope with growing demand. Those assets are now the permanent property of companies, many in foreign ownership.

Moreover, there have been proposals for “water shares”, an arrangement under which the companies would also become part “owners” of  our natural resource, the water catchments to which they have hitherto had access  under licences that can be revoked in whole or part. It is difficult to see the purpose of this other than to make effective regulation and future change virtually impossible. When privatisation took place, the previous merger of licensee and regulator  was wisely seen to be inappropriate under private ownership. But this would be a major step in that direction and should not be permitted to happen.

Barry Rydz




More than 100 years ago one of Scotland’s proudest and most principled sons, Keir Hardie, became the Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil, a constituency at the heart of the South Wales valleys’ mining community. He was not Welsh and did not even speak Welsh but he did share a socialist dream that did not stop or begin at national borders.

He went on to change the face of British politics but he also taught us that there is more that unites us than what can ever divide us… that unity is strength and that we are stronger together and weaker apart.

As a proud Brit and Welshman I urge Scotland to keep sending more Scottish working class heroes, like Hardie, to our British Parliament.

Rob Curtis

Barry, South Wales

A question which seems neither to have been asked of nor answered by Alistair Darling and which may influence voting intentions: If Scotland votes for independence, would you stand for the new Scottish parliament or would you find an English, Welsh or Northern Irish seat?

John Hein


In every war in which Britain has participated since 1707, Scotland has made a military contribution greatly above her due and fair share. (DJ Taylor, 24 August). This fact is never mentioned by war historians.

In the First World War at the Battle of Arras 38 Scottish battalions went over the parapets, a larger number then engaged than in the whole British Army at Waterloo. At the Third Battle of Ypres three Scottish Divisions were put in several times and never failed to perform the tasks required of them. In 1917, a South African artilleryman remarked, “We always knew there was something big on when we found the Jocks near us.”

Donald J MacLeod


I have never understood why politicians succumb to requests, such as having cold water poured over them, that make them look ridiculous or, as in sleeping in a box on the South Bank for one night, is patronising to those in need (“Congratulation, Mr President”, 24 August).

In a bygone age, when I worked at Liberal Party HQ, I was occasionally asked to get the then party leader, Jo Grimond, to undertake some such “photo opportunity” and he would always refuse, saying, “Politics is too important for gimmicks.” It still is!

Michael Meadowcroft


May I suggest an answer to Stan Labovitch’s excellent question (Letters, 3 August)? I believe people only protest when they believe they may have some chance of success. Israel is a democracy founded by people from Europe with European values; we expect more from them than from Isis, who are antidemocratic; we believe Israel fundamentally shares our values; that being so, we hope that Israel will listen; that hope seems vain with Isis.

John Dakin

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Michael Calvin asks, “Will it happen?” in relation to stopping the abuse of people from minorities by authority figures in football (Sport, 24 August). He answers his question with: “Not while intolerable attitudes are tolerated, and silence screams a warning to anyone who yearns for common decency.” Michael, why not have the courage, together with the powers that be at your paper, to name the offenders you refer to? You are as guilty as all the rest.

Steve Brewer

Leeds, West Yorkshire

We are really deep into the silly season when a headline reports that a Lib Dem living in Eastbourne helped Lib Dem candidates standing in, err, Eastbourne (“Lord Rennard campaigned while under investigation”, 24 August). If Chris Rennard had visited my patch in May I would have had pleasure in giving him a bundle of leaflets and I would have left him “alone” on the streets with a volunteer to show him where the letterboxes are in this old town.

Keith Watts

Whitchurch, Hampshire




THE extremist acts we see perpetrated today by Isis, or Islamic State, are the result of two decades of government failure to see the menace of the violent behaviour of certain Muslim groups. The signatories to the letter you published (“We must unite to stop the march of Isis”, Letters, last week) also fail to understand this challenge.

The takeover of schools, the contamination of local democracies and the promotion of an anti-British agenda did not happen overnight.

What is needed to put a brake on this fast-moving juggernaut is a programme of integration for Muslim communities. Imams should take mandatory courses to connect them to British society, and all 1,600 mosques should be brought under some formal central control.
Akbar Dad Khan
Building Bridges UK, Luton


One can only applaud the publication of the letter signed by many representatives of the Muslim community, but what action will follow the fine words? Will the police and the army be flooded with applications from Muslim youths?

Or will local constabularies and the military have to bear the brunt of a problem not of their making?
Ian Snowden
Clitheroe, Lancashire


The West is once again in danger of getting mixed up in a religious war, an intervention for which it will never be thanked. We should do no more than offer humanitarian aid. The problem of Isis should be dealt with by Muslim forces from countries such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

There is also no real reason why the existing borders of Iraq and Syria should remain unchanged. As for the British terrorists, the old sanction of exile should be resurrected for anyone identified as having held arms for or given support to Isis. There is no point in locking these people up or trying to reason with them. They are thugs.

Finally, the media should give less oxygen of publicity and air of glamour to these people. The West ought to be far more concerned about events in eastern Europe.
David Stone
Petersfield, Hampshire


The reported aim of the armed-forces redundancy scheme is to cut the regular army from 100,000 personnel to 82,000 and to expand the Territorial Army to 30,000 part-timers. Surely a strategic rethink is required in view of increasing terrorist threats around the world, including in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Should we not be expanding our special forces and utilising more of their unconventional approach, experience and flexibility to meet the new challenges? America and France have recognised this and have been extending the operational capabilities of their elite troops for some time.
Peter Macnab
Brussels, Belgium


It hardly seems feasible that the Sunni Muslims can be won over to an inclusive Iraq after all that has happened. The prospect of a unified state being formed is minimal, given the commitment of the Kurds to hold a referendum for seceding from Iraq.

Isis is perhaps right about one thing, and that is that the Sykes-Picot agreement’s ordering of the Middle East almost a century ago has outlived any usefulness.
Dr Chris Lamb


Is it not time to stop using the term “ execution” in reporting on the brutal murder of hostages and others by terrorists? The word refers to the lawful carrying-out of a sentence passed by a court of law. Its misuse lends the terrorists a veneer of legality. They are committing murder and it should be called that.
Robert Faulkner
Alton, Hampshire


Can America try to teach the rest of the world how to live in a civilised manner when it has police shooting apparently innocent civilians who are demonstrating over their unequal lives?
Clive Jacobs
Aldenham, Hertfordshire

Senior army officers are fighting-fit for purpose
I AM an army brigadier in my last few weeks of service. I am one of the many who did not attempt the two fitness tests, but I remain exceptionally fit for my age of 49 (“At ease, general? Top brass dodge army fitness test”, News, last week).

Last weekend I did a five-kilometre run — just over three miles — in 20 minutes and 52 seconds, I recently finished the Edinburgh marathon in 4 hours and 20 minutes and I have completed the Royal Marines endurance course twice in the past year with trainee commandos. Most — but admittedly not all — of those in my peer group are fit and more than able to do the job.

Senior officers often have to fit in their exercise early in the morning before scheduled sessions. My staff booked me in for the test at least three times, and each time some compelling operational priority took me away. However, it is worth remembering that once over the age of 40 we are employed for our intellect, experience and leadership ability rather than our fitness.

Reasonable fitness is required but we are not the ones leading platoon attacks. General Sir Peter Wall is an inspiring leader who has steered the army through significant downsizing with great skill. I seem to recall he was a rugby second row; they were never the quickest across the pitch, but you would not wish to be tackled by him.
Allan Thomson
Andover, Hampshire


In response to the article by Mark Hookham and Sean Rayment (a former colleague), might I politely point out that Wall (another former colleague) attempted and passed pre-parachute selection — known as P Company — one of the toughest military fitness tests around? I did so too at the age of 18. Throughout my 37 years of military service it was a matter of self-discipline that physical fitness would be maintained at all times. This was proven beyond any doubt during the Falklands War in 1982.

I suspect that the majority of those senior officers you quote as not having taken part in the fitness test are of the same ilk — just too busy to complete the test. Now 60, I continue in this vein, running for about an hour every day with my dogs, with 30 press-ups en route and 30 sit-ups as “afters”. That number will rise by one next year on my 61st, and so on.
Colonel David Benest (retired)
Pewsey, Wiltshire


Your article only scratches the surface of the problem. In Afghanistan the lack of fitness among senior British Army ranks was frequently derided by their American opposites. Incidentally, the claim that some exemptions from the personal fitness assessment are granted on medical grounds is moonshine.
Colonel Barry Clayton (retired)
Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire


I commend your campaign to improve the earlier diagnosis of cancer (“Hunt pledges cash for hi-tech cancer therapy”, News, last week). However, I am concerned that your emphasis on delays by patients and GPs potentially misses delays by hospitals. My father’s bowel cancer was diagnosed less than two weeks before he died last month. He had been referred promptly by his GP but the surgeon dismissed his symptoms. My father got steadily worse over two months and it proved extremely difficult, despite strenuous efforts by his GP and me, to get a second consultant opinion. It took two emergency admissions before my father was eventually seen by a consultant, who organised the appropriate test the same day. It showed bowel cancer, but by then it was inoperable. He died less than two weeks later.
Catherine Harper, London SE24


The additional £6m for research in advanced radiotherapy is welcome (“A step towards ending the cancer diagnosis lottery”, Editorial, last week) but patients and policy makers should be aware of the limitations of this initiative. The sum compares unfavourably with the recent £160m boost to the cancer drugs fund. Radiotherapy contributes to a cure in a significantly greater proportion of cancer patients than does chemotherapy, so the balance of investment may be wrong. Sustained investment is required both in research and in the implementation of advanced radiotherapy techniques.
Giles Maskell, President, Royal College of Radiologists


So Lord O’Donnell thinks the British government isn’t planning sufficiently for the possibility of Scotland leaving the union after next month’s vote (“Ministers ‘blind on Scotland’”, News, last week). Perhaps it has seen the odds I obtained from the bookmaker. It was 2-11 on a “no” vote. This suggests to me that independence just isn’t going to happen. Does the bookmaking fraternity often get it that wrong, especially in a two-horse race?
Hugh Pearson
Kenilworth, Warwickshire


O’Donnell is right: UK government ministers should remove their heads from the sand and consider the practical implications — not least for defence policy and the nuclear deterrent — of a possible “yes” result. Not to do so seems extraordinarily irresponsible. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Tony Rossiter
Leyburn, North Yorkshire


Camilla Long castigates football chiefs for writing about “awesome jiggly knockers”and “big-titted broads” yet admires Cecil Beaton’s style in describing Elizabeth Taylor’s “huge, pendulous bosoms” as “hanging and huge, like those of a peasant suckling her young in Peru” (“Here’s my post-match analysis, Malky. Lay off the ‘banter’”, Comment, last week). How are the comments by the “delicate” photographer less offensive than those of “the appalling people who run football”?
Luke Dixon
London W1


Oh, the delicious irony. Harry Cliff, a particle physicist at Cambridge, knows the Big Bang should have wiped out everything yet believes he hasn’t found any evidence that God exists (A Life in the Day, Magazine, last week).
Nick Beecham
Hockley, Essex


Giving a child a musical instrument is the easy part; giving them a musical education is much harder (“Jamie to beat the drum for school music”, News, August 17). We train music-college students to become teachers: imagine Teach First but for music. In my experience young musicians deserve to be paid and trained specifically in how to teach, as their core training at music colleges is not teaching but performing. At London Music Masters we teach hundreds of children with excellent results. Our investment in two Lambeth primary schools has enabled several children to win multiple scholarships to secondary schools and music academies. We are immensely grateful for all the donated instruments but the crucial thing is the quality of the tuition, and that it is provided throughout their primary education and beyond.
Robert Adediran
London Music Masters
London SE11


Your five examples of novels by John le Carré that have been made into films contain a huge omission (“Le Carré on screen”, Magazine, last week). Based on le Carre’s book Call for the Dead, the 1966 film The Deadly Affair starred James Mason, Maximilian Schell and Simone Signoret, plus an excellent supporting cast. This very good production has never received the credit it was due, as illustrated by its unfortunate absence from your list.
Michael Dixon


Charles Clover’s advice that drying clothes on a washing line in the garden is environmentally friendly surely qualifies for Basil Fawlty’s degree in the bleeding obvious (“A washing line gets your clothes and green credentials whiter than white”, Comment, last week). My neighbours and I have never even thought about buying tumble dryers. And the exercise we get from running to fetch the clothes in when it rains keeps us warm too.
Sylvia Crookes
Bainbridge, North Yorkshire

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Martin Bell, journalist and politician, 75; Todd Carty, actor, 51; Roger Dean, illustrator, 70; Richard Gere, actor, 65; Debbie Gibson, singer, 44; Clive Lloyd, cricketer, 70; Van Morrison, musician, 69; Edwin Moses, hurdler, 59; Itzhak Perlman, violinist, 69; Queen Rania of Jordan, 44; Glenn Tilbrook, musician, 57

1888 murder of Mary Ann Nichols, first victim of Jack the Ripper; 1957 Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia) gains independence from the UK; 1968 Garfield Sobers hit six sixes in an over, the first to do so in first-class cricket; 1997 car crashes in Paris tunnel, killing Diana, Princess of Wales, Dodi Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul


Shaun Wright has refused to step down as PCC despite pressure from all political parties Photo: Ross Parry

6:58AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – The Home Secretary is right to condemn social workers, council bosses and police chiefs who failed in their duty to protect the children of Rotherham.

To prevent such blatant neglect of duty ever happening again, those deemed culpable should not just be allowed to resign and effectively get away with it; they should be forcibly sacked and any pension accrued severely reduced.

Only with such draconian measures will those in authority throughout the country be incentivised not to sweep things under the carpet in future.

B J Colby

SIR – This year alone we have had the export of extremism, the Trojan horse affair in education in Birmingham, and now the horrors of Rotherham – all because of a reticence, or even fear, of treading on the sensibilities of ethnic minorities.

This has come about as a direct result of the determination in the last three decades to establish multiculturalism: the notion that all cultures are equal, that there is no such thing as a host-nation culture to which all foreign-comers should be prepared to adapt.

It is now surely obvious, even to the most hardened ideologue of the Left, that the process has been an abject failure.

Edward Thomas
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Out-of-control borders

SIR – I was not surprised to read the headline “UK border controls in chaos”.

I recently came across an encampment of tents and at least 15 young Asian men in a hidden area of Fryent Country Park in Middlesex. They were not pleased to be seen and only one man appeared to understand English.

Suspecting they were illegal immigrants, I contacted the police. I was told to contact Immigration Services, where there was no response on Sunday and, once I got through on Monday, no option to report finding immigrants.

Perhaps if the public was encouraged or even allowed to report illegal immigrants, they would be less keen to come here in the first place.

Dr R E Alexander
London NW9

SIR – We have been hearing about chaos in border control for years. Unlike most countries, Britain does not require passport checks upon departure, so we have no idea how many people who came in on valid tourist visas have overstayed. This is utterly ridiculous.

Ramji Abinashi
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

No avoiding Assad

SIR – The Foreign Secretary is reluctant to join forces with Bashar al-Assad to fight Isil, but in 1942, when Hitler invaded Russia, we made a pact with Stalin. Winston Churchill said he would make a pact with the Devil if Hitler invaded Hell.

Churchill was right then. Philip Hammond is wrong now.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

So long, seagulls

SIR – I feel it necessary to point out that gull control methods successfully pioneered by Dumfries and Galloway Council over the last six years have related not to egg pricking, but nest and egg removal.

This method has been closely monitored by an independent expert and representatives of the Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage. The removal of several thousand eggs and subsequent disturbance to breeding gulls is now beginning to produce the desired results.

There is a cost to this service and it is reliant on easy access to buildings and the cooperation of property owners, but we believe it is the only non-lethal way of controlling this increasing problem.

Martin G Taylor
Environmental Health Services, Dumfries and Galloway Council

SIR – R J Ardern calls for stricter controls of gulls, but it is humans who are mostly at fault. The 1956 Clean Air Act prevented rubbish-tip operators burning waste, so gulls took advantage of the huge amount of organic material sent to landfill instead.

We can deter seagulls by reducing the amount we throw away, preventing street littering, and making public waste bins and collection arrangements “gull-proof”. Those best placed to do this are landfill companies, local authorities and statutory bodies with a wildlife management remit, but the behaviour of individuals is also important.

All bar one of the British gull species are of amber-listed conservation concern. The herring gull – to many, the sound of our seaside – is a red-listed species and its population is still plummeting. Can we imagine a British coastline devoid of its evocative calls?

Ed Hutchings
Stoke-by-Nayland, Essex

Burn it, don’t waste it

SIR – Burning waste in special incinerators prevents noxious fumes from entering the atmosphere and generates electricity, lessening the amount of fossil fuels that need to be extracted from the ground. The ash left behind is also a valuable commodity, containing elements that can be re-used in industry.

Land is too valuable to use for landfill sites. We should be building more waste incinerators as well as continuing to sell our valuable waste overseas.

Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire

Scottish civil service mantras sound Soviet

SIR – The politicisation of the civil service in Scotland is a worrying trend.

Scottish government ministers’ wearisome and meaningless mantra that independence will make the country “a freer and more just society” is totally at odds with their policy of making government function as “a single institution”, and smacks of the authoritarian regimes which rule some of the former Soviet republics. It’s a grim prospect of what Scotland could be letting itself in for if there isn’t a resounding No vote in the forthcoming referendum.

Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

SIR – I would like to ask Alex Salmond: 1) Would an independent Scotland divorce itself from any further UK involvement in conflicts in the Middle East, and 2) Could an independent Scotland succeed where the UK has so dismally failed in securing its borders and limiting immigration?

If his answer to these questions was “yes”, and I was a Scot, I would vote for independence, irrespective of economic considerations.

John Cottrell
Addlestone, Surrey

SIR – You state that “the final decision whether or not Scotland leaves the Union is, rightly, left in the hands of the Scottish people” Who are these Scottish people?

I was born and educated in Glasgow and have lived in England for many years. I have always considered myself to be a Scot who is a citizen of the United Kingdom. How is it possible that someone from Outer Mongolia who moved to Scotland in the last few years has a vote, but I don’t?

Derek Leithead
West Byfleet, Surrey

Basic clichés

SIR — The use of “So” to begin the answer to a question is undeniably irritating, but less so than its predecessor, the excruciatingly clichéd “Well, basically”.

T G Jones
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – Why do people ask, when buying a drink in a pub, “Can I get a pint of…?” The bar staff are there to get your drink for you.

Andy Watson
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I should have thought that for someone emigrating to France to say “See you later” was most appropriate (Letters, August 24).

What on earth does Jane Scott think “Au revoir” means?

Dave Day
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Police station in Rotherham, South Yorkshire Photo: Getty

6:58AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – The men who abused children in Rotherham are criminals, irrespective of their race, culture or creed, and the full force of the justice system needs to deal with them for their heinous crimes.

Child protection should be paramount. No one should ever fail to act for fear of being seen as racist. The Rotherham report says that “almost all” abusers were Asian. This is undeniable and no community should shirk its responsibility to protect children.

However, abuse takes place in every town, city and community. We must not focus solely on one model of exploitation, and miss exploitation if the perpetrators or victims don’t fit one profile of race, gender or geography. In a recent study by Barnardo’s, almost one third in a group of sexually exploited young people supported by the charity since 2008 were male.

We will continue to work with communities and the authorities on behalf of the victims of this terrible crime.

Javed Khan
Chief Executive, Barnardo’s
Ilford, Essex

SIR – When clergy, youth leaders and private individuals commit child abuse, any public organisations to which they belong are hauled into the media spotlight. When the abusers are gangs of Asian men, why does no one question the mosque authorities or other local community leaders?

Dr Allan Chapman

SIR – Everybody is directing a lot of justified anger at officials in Rotherham.

Much of that effort would be better aimed at dealing with those who actually carried out the crimes.

Robert Mason
Witney, Oxfordshire

Assisting physicians

SIR – America has had physician associates (Letters, August 25) for many years now – called physician assistants there – and they have proved to be a valuable asset to doctors, and to be popular with patients.

They do not take on the role of junior doctors, but practise within a very specific area of expertise, and always under the supervision of a specialist consultant. Because of their narrow area of practice, they become extremely skilled. In America, after initial scepticism, they have gained much respect from colleagues and patients.

Audrey Taylor
Former member, Royal College of Physicians Patient and Carer Group
Newcastle upon Tyne

Centenary seeds

SIR – Alison Savage (Letters, August 27) remembered the Great War through sewing, and we by sowing. We planted our paddock at the bottom of the churchyard in Lechlade with poppies to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and hope all who stop take a moment to reflect on those who gave their lives.

Valmai Bunkham
Lechlade, Gloucestershire

All in the family

SIR – My wife regularly takes her 96-year-old father to do his shopping at Sainsbury’s in Christchurch. As she searches for a parking place, she often wonders if their relationship entitles them to park in the nice, wide, “parent and child” slots.

As yet, she has not plucked up the courage to try it out. But, if challenged, it would be hard to argue with the semantics.

Alan Wiseman
Plush, Dorset

Russia in Ukraine

SIR – For those that read European history there must be a certain feeling of déjà vu.

Sadly the reactions of both David Cameron and Barack Obama to Russian aggression in Ukraine make Chamberlain look positively belligerent.

Matt Minshall
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – “Back down or else, Putin”. Or else what, Mr Cameron?

Jeremy Mallin
Solihull, Warwickshire

British jihadists

SIR – Lance Warrington (Letters, August 28) proposes that British citizens guilty of terrorist offences should be stripped of their citizenship and deported. To which country would they be deported, and why would it feel obliged to accept them?

William Furness
Glastonbury, Somerset

Getting heavy

SIR – When I asked for six European 20g letter stamps from the Post Office counter at our local shop, I was told that they could not be sold in multiples for me to take home, as I “just might slip a bar of chocolate” into the envelope and try to pass it off as a 20g letter.

Apparently every overseas letter now has to be weighed in the Post Office.

Rev Martin Oram
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Airport queue status

SIR – Arriving at Kingsford-Smith airport in Sydney I joined an immigration channel for e-passport citizens from “Australia, UK, New Zealand and the US”.

When I arrive at Heathrow in November will I be greeted by a reciprocal access channel or, as an Australian citizen, will I still be treated as second-class in comparison to EU citizens?

Chris Watson
Lumut, Perak, Malaysia

Dancing in the aisles

SIR – It’s not just gyms that have noisy music (Letters, August 28). I recently went to the Prestwich branch of Tesco to do some contemplative late-night shopping. I couldn’t – it was like a disco with shelving.

Stephen O’Loughlin
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

A sick invite that sanctions the use of words

SIR – Where have all the invitations gone? I have received only invites in recent years.

John Corbyn

SIR – I still laugh at a letter I received from a high street bank offering me a refund as a goodwill jester.

Margarete Isherwood
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

SIR – Tim Nixon reminds us that wicked has diametrically opposite meanings (Letters, August 29). In the language of the young, sick is used to indicate delight more often than to denote illness.

Paul Cheater
Litton Cheney, Dorset

SIR – The word dust, when used as a verb, can mean both the application of a powder or its removal. As a noun, it is the powder itself. The context alone reveals the meaning.

William R McQueen
Isle of Bute

SIR – Sanction: to allow and to disallow.

Michael Cattell
Mollington, Cheshire

SIR – I apsolutely agree with the sentiments expressed in letters regarding the over-use of words.

Andrew Blake
Shalbourne, Wiltshire

SIR – Surely, surely.

Simon Hull
Newmarket, Suffolk

What would Robert do? The poet is honoured with a statue in George Square, Glasgow  Photo: John McGovern/Alamy

6:59AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – Much as I enjoyed Matthew Maxwell Scott’s article, I must question his belief that Robert Burns would have supported Alex Salmond.

There is no question that Burns was a proud and fervent Scot. He illustrated that in many of his works, no more so than in a letter to Elizabeth Scott, in which he explains that when weeding in the fields, he spared the thistle, the symbol of Scotland, and that he knew no higher praise than to have been born a Scot.

However, Burns was also an Excise man and, as such, a government employee. He understood the ramifications of attacking the hand that fed him and became a member of the Dumfries Volunteers, an early home-guard unit formed to combat the threat of an invasion by Napoleon’s forces. He wrote a poem about the Volunteers:

O, let us not, like snarling tykes in wrangling be divided; / Till, slap! come in an unco’ loon and wi’ a rung decide it./ Be Britain still to Britain true, amang oursels united; / For never but by British hands maun British wrangs be righted.

George Wilkie
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire

Bob Hoskins, seen here in the 1978 BBC drama Pennies from Heaven, began his career in repertory theatre 

6:59AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – As a secondary modern boy who worked his way up through the theatre ranks to become director of the Council of Regional Theatre and then moved into management at the BBC, I fully endorse what Ben Stephenson, head of BBC drama commissioning, had to say about the acting profession not reflecting the real world.

Back in the days when we had repertory theatres, the true training grounds for the country’s actors, in every major city and town, people from all sectors of society took to the boards. In those days we could all see the eventual effect that television would have on the acting profession: not only a diminishing theatre audience, but a siphoning-off of local talent, thus making the theatre more reliant on those who could afford to have expensive drama training.

It is a sad state of affairs when a majority of our actors come from the so-called “posh” schools as this skews what should be an egalitarian profession appealing to a broad cross-section of the population.

The simple answer is for both television and the cinema to fund scholarships so we do not miss out on the Dora Bryans and the Bob Hoskinses of the future.

Vin Harrop
Billericay, Essex

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve believes Britain has fallen victim to an ‘aggressive form of secularism’ 

7:00AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, warns that Britain is at risk of being “sanitised” of its faith because an “aggressive form of secularism” is forcing Christians to hide their beliefs. He is right – but who would have predicted that an atheist hegemony would be established under a Conservative-led government anxious to rid itself of the “nasty” label?

As the world stands aghast at the horrific outcomes of Islamic State’s religious cleansing policy in Iraq, do Conservative leaders still think that eliminating Christian influence on British culture will bring untold benefits to the nation? So far it has given us same-sex marriage and the prospect of assisted suicide.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – Even if it were true that “aggressive secularism” is trying to “push faith out of the public space”, it has not been very successful.

Only a fortnight ago, the Bishop of Leeds’s criticism of the Government’s policy on Iraq made front-page headlines simply because of his clerical status, as did Lord Carey’s suggestion that jihadists should lose their British passports. Britain is the only country which reserves seats in its parliament for Christian clerics.

People in their millions talk about their beliefs and wear crosses in public. The high-profile cases that Grieve refers to concerned jewellery, not crosses – for example where they posed a health and safety risk.

Two employees were indeed sacked for resisting tasks which went against their religious beliefs, but the Supreme Court and Strasbourg both considered this did not interfere with their freedom of religion, which Britain rightly takes so seriously. Their plight is not greater than that of the gay clients against whom they wished to discriminate.

The National Secular Society made it clear during its High Court action that it was happy that prayers before council meetings should remain lawful, which they do.

Keith Porteous Wood
Executive Director, National Secular Society
London WC1

SIR – The sanitisation of Britain’s faith began long ago with religion and hymns being removed from school assemblies and children of other faiths not having to take part.

Singing a religious song will not make someone change their religion, nor will working with someone who wears jewellery that advertises their faith.

I live in Turkey, a secular country which is predominantly Muslim. Despite being brought up a Christian, I often am obliged to respect the religion of my host country. This extends to attending Muslim ceremonies and joining in with its practices.

Britain is not a secular country and therefore has a right to include the Church of England in day-to-day life. People of other religions should embrace this as they do the opportunity to live in their country of choice.

Joanne Grimwood
Ula, Mugla, Turkey

SIR – As a practising Christian I was encouraged to read Dominic Grieve’s comments highlighting the discrimination against Christians, especially in the workplace. I was less encouraged by his comments on Israel – namely, “Killing large numbers of children in UN schools which are supposed to be havens of safety is a very unfortunate event to take place and I think needs an explanation.”

We in the West have a tendency to underestimate the levels of cynicism and cruelty of which Hamas is capable. Not content with hiding its weaponry in schools, mosques and other public buildings and firing rockets from them, they then force their citizens to stay put in these areas, despite clear warnings from the Israeli Defence Force to leave them in advance of their attacks.

Might I ask what alternative course of action Mr Grieve has in mind for Israel, in its legitimate task of defending its own citizens against terror?

Helen Stengel
London E1

SIR – As you report, Douglas Carswell spent sleepless nights making his decision to defect to the UK Independence Party but ultimately decided that David Cameron was not serious about European reform.

It does not matter whether the Prime Minister is serious about reform, as long as he is serious about a referendum. I am prepared to take his word for it that such a referendum will be in the Conservative manifesto. A Conservative government will then negotiate with the EU, and the British people will decide whether any new deal is sufficient to keep Britain in the EU.

All Mr Carswell has achieved is to help Ukip split the Eurosceptic vote next year, thus increasing the chances of a Labour government and no referendum.

Sam Dunning
Guildford, Surrey

SIR – James Kirkup’s analysis of the rise of Ukip hit the nail on the head when he said that it’s about trust, and its absence. Despite being a life-long, Thatcherite Tory, I voted Ukip in the last general election, first because I refuse to vote socialist and, secondly, because I didn’t believe a word Mr Cameron said.

I think my view has been vindicated. I no longer care whether or not a vote for Ukip upsets the apple cart; in my view it is full of rotten apples and the few decent apples such as Michael Gove and Owen Paterson have been thrown into the gutter.

Mr Cameron is his own worst enemy: everybody knows full well that any promised referendum on Europe is going to be a stitch-up. Meaningful changes will require a new treaty and the EU is not going to turn itself inside out just to please us.

Any wavering Tory voters should ask themselves whom Mr Cameron would align himself with, in the event of a hung Parliament: Ukip or the Liberal Democrats?

Jonathan Goodall
Bath, Somerset

SIR – William Hague has said that voting for Ukip in the general election would let in Labour, and that only the Conservatives guarantee a referendum on the EU.

But if Ukip wins enough seats next May, it will almost certainly go into a coalition with the Tories, in order to see off Labour. Then we will definitely get our referendum.

Even if Labour has the most seats, I doubt if they will have a working majority.

Paul Farndon
New Milton, Hampshire

SIR – In 1924 there was a by-election for the safe Conservative seat of Westminster Abbey. Winston Churchill stood as an Independent Constitutionalist against a Conservative candidate. He ran his campaign from 34 committee rooms, each of which was run by a Conservative MP. He reduced the Conservative majority from 13,607 to a mere 43. Could this be a precedent for the Clacton by-election?

John Boast
London N21

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – After a brief lull it was only a matter of time before the public/private sector debate began again, especially given the report that public servants may be in line for a reversal of austerity cuts.

However having read with rising ire the various articles in the Sunday Independent (17 August) it strikes me that in a valiant attempt to highlight some of the gross injustices in pay and conditions between the public and private sector, people on both sides are caught in the crossfire, wondering who exactly is in receipt of these lucrative pay packets.

While I appreciate that the provision of statistics in terms of averages is a fairly common practice, unfortunately it is the ‘one size fits all’ ethos which infuriates lower paid workers on both sides of this manufactured public/private sector divide. More importantly it negates the efforts of economists and commentators to provide a true reflection of the glaring inequalities which exist within the public sector itself.

As a lower paid employee of the state I can categorically confirm that following twelve years of service my gross hourly rate is €18.61 for a 37 hour week which is considerably lower than the €20.21 stated for the private sector and even more significantly lower than the €28.23 which is given as the average hourly rate for a public sector worker. When the various deductions are made I have the grand total of €13.61 per hour, or €503.73 per week.

So, while I wholeheartedly commend the many heroic journalistic endeavours which have over the years brought to our attention the full extent of corruption and inequality which regrettably continues to prosper in Irish society, I implore those commentators to please compare like with like and to recognise that there is a palpable divide within the public sector itself.

Indeed the chasm which exists between management, who despite the austerity measures continue to earn extraordinary salaries, and the vast majority of staff is quite profound and certainly deserves further analysis.

Please remember that the public sector is not a homogenous whole, but is comprised of profoundly unequal divisions.

(Name and address with Editor)

No certainty in  abortion debate

Madam — Gene Kerrigan is right when he says ‘abortion is a moral issue’ (Sunday Independent, 24 August).  When he compares it to ‘slavery’, however, I think he is making a mistake.

Slavery is about a conflict of interest between adults. The issue of abortion is not so straightforward since it involves a conflict of interest between an adult and an unborn human being.

Abortion is, therefore, a very difficult moral issue for our legal institutions to deal with. In democratic societies we exercise power by electing representatives to act on our behalf. Given that democratic institutions are human institutions vested interests play political football with the issues that affect them.

Despite its fundamental nature, or perhaps because of its fundamental nature, the abortion issue is not immune to that tendency.

Since I often agree with Gene Kerrigan, I am sorry to have to say that he is playing political football with the abortion issue when he pontificates about moral certainties in which there are no qualms of conscience.

 A Leavy,


Dublin 13

Niamh’s abortion article a big help

Madam – Niamh Horan’s article “Abortion debate requires something more than love” last weekend (Sunday Independent, August 24), was just excellent, written with great compassion and understanding.

Essential reading for the powers that be, and all of us for that matter. Personally, for someone who is completely out of their comfort zone, I found the article to be of immense help in trying to come to terms and understand the many difficulties women have when faced with this awful dilemma.

 Once again, Bravo Niamh!

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Use of the ‘F’ word is not at all nice

Madam – To be honest, we all use that awful ‘F’ word from time to time. Jesus would laugh, as he was human while on earth and knows it’s only in frustration, but it’s not nice when we see it overused and seen as ‘cute or smart’ in the Sindo, even by much-loved writers.

I was late leaving the leaba last Sunday and my mugga nearly choked me, reading Antonia Leslie’s interview with the Rubberbandits. And that was after getting a glance at the  front page — ‘Dawkins says it’s immoral to give birth to a child with Downs’!

God bless Brendan O’Connor for answering that misguided man. Dawkins oozes unease; he should think deeper and may well change, as I see it.

Kathleen Corrigan,


Co Cavan

Rose of Tralee is what people want

Madam – the Rose of Tralee is indeed dreadful. However to understand this, and for an insight into the Irish psyche, one need only turn to the dancing pages of a popular Sunday paper.

There you will see nothing but country music bands appearing at venues all over the country,  all of them pounding out their rather tedious beat, while real dance bands have had to give up.

Just like the Rose of Tralee, this is what the people want. Maybe in about a hundred years things will change.

 Paul Reilly,

Crumlin, D ublin 12

Greater efficiency with new rules

Madam – Nick Webb criticises new EU regulations on vacuum cleaners which will come into effect on  1 September  (Sunday Independent 24 August).

What he fails to point out is that the new rules will save, by 2020, the amount of  electricity produced by more than four power plants or consumed by 5.5 million households.

This will in no way affect the ability to clean one’s home, and aims to bring about increased performance, energy efficiency, reduced dust re-emission and noise levels.

Barbara Nolan,

Head of European Commission Representation in Ireland

Sunday Independent

Lost book

August 30, 2014

30 August 2014 Lost book

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I find a ‘lost’ book

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, duck leg for tea and her back pain has flared up!


Bill Kerr – obituary

Bill Kerr was a distinguished Australian character actor who made his name on radio in Hancock’s Half Hour

Bill Kerr (l) and Sid James (r) recording BBC Radio's Hancock's Half Hour in 1954

Bill Kerr (l) and Sid James (r) recording BBC Radio’s Hancock’s Half Hour in 1954  Photo: S&G AND BARRATTS GENERAL

7:21PM BST 29 Aug 2014


Bill Kerr, who has died aged 92, was an Australian actor who made his name on the radio in Britain in the 1950s, becoming particularly well-known for his role (alongside Sid James and Hattie Jacques) as one of Tony Hancock’s three cronies in Hancock’s Half Hour.

But Kerr was also a character actor of distinction, giving memorable performances as a racketeer in My Death is a Mockery (1952); as the bomber pilot Micky Martin in The Dam Busters (1955); and as a mentally disturbed crook in Port of Escape (1956), co-starring Googie Withers and Joan Hickson. His other films of this period included Appointment in London (1952), You Know What Sailors Are (1954) and The Night My Number Came Up (1955).

Bill Kerr, Tony Hancock and Sid James during rehearsals for Hancock’s Half Hour in 1956

After more than two decades in Britain, in 1979 Kerr returned to Australia, where he had been brought up from early childhood, settling in Perth. The British entertainment industry’s loss was Australia’s gain, as Kerr continued to forge a successful career on both stage and screen.

William Henry Kerr was born in Cape Town on June 10 1922. Both his parents were in showbusiness and they took him on stage when he was still in infancy. “My mother took about 10 weeks off to have me, and when she returned to the stage the producers said rather than bother with a doll for the baby, why didn’t she use me,” Kerr said in 1995. “So you could say my stage career began when I was only a few weeks old.”

By the time the family moved from South Africa to Australia, Bill was old enough to go on tour playing child parts such as Little Willie in a production of East Lynne. By the age of eight he had started in variety. He appeared in his first film, a short called Harmony Row (in which he was credited as Billy Kerr), in 1933, and from the age of 16 he was taking part in children’s broadcasts from the Australian National and commercial radio networks.

Having served with the Australian Army in the Second World War, Kerr arrived in Britain by ship in 1947, immediately securing roles on radio programmes in which he was billed as “the stand-up comedian from Wagga Wagga”. After a spell performing at the Camberwell Palace, he toured the Moss and Stoll theatres.

Kerr was one of a host of repertory stars in Variety Bandbox, playing alongside names such as Frankie Howerd and Reg Dixon on “steam radio”. His droll, lugubrious character had the catchphrase “I’ve only got four minutes”, and after the laughter this generated had subsided he would come back with a riposte such as: “I don’t want to worry you, but you people in the balcony — those pillars don’t look too safe.” For audiences of the late Forties, this counted as black humour.

His first British film was a programme-filler called Penny Points to Paradise (1951), which also featured Peter Sellers, Alfred Marks, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe.

During this early period of his career Kerr was also active on the stage, in productions such as Pommie; The Bed Sitting Room (alongside Spike Milligan) at the Mermaid; and Son of Oblomov at the Comedy.

In 1954 he joined Hancock’s Half Hour, which ran on the radio for six series and later moved on to television. As Hancock’s Australian lodger at the dilapidated 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, Kerr appeared as the gormless, slow-on-the-uptake butt of his landlord’s humour. The role made Kerr a household name in Britain, and he later resumed his partnership with Sid James in the first series of the television comedy Citizen James (1960).

Kerr’s other television appearances in Britain included one of the Doctor Who stories, “The Enemy of the World” (1968), alongside Patrick Troughton; and the BBC soap opera Compact, created by the same team that went on to devise Crossroads.

On the big screen, he had parts in The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), and in two of the “Doctor” films, Doctor in Distress (1963) and Doctor in Clover (1966).

For much of the 1970s, Kerr concentrated on theatre. He appeared in Cole at the Mermaid; The Good Old Bad Old Days, co-starring with Anthony Newley at the Prince of Wales; and in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime at Sadler’s Wells. He charmed audiences as Sakini in a national tour of The Teahouse of the August Moon; was a forcefully ingratiating Devil in Damn Yankees; and proved a hit as Humphrey Bogart in Play It Again, Sam at the Globe.

Bill Kerr as Uncle Jack, with Mark Lee as Archy (r), in Gallipoli

After settling in Perth he played serious roles in a number of Australian films, including in the Peter Weir pictures Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). He also co-starred in Razorback (1984), about a murderous wild boar running riot in the Australian outback.

He was active on the Australian stage — in My Fair Lady he was a critical success as Alfred Doolittle — and appeared in numerous television series, including Return to Eden.

Bill Kerr, who was three times married and had four children, is said to have died while watching television at his home.

Bill Kerr, born June 10 1922, died August 28 2014


Eton College The historic cobbled school yard of Eton College. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Simon Jenkins’s patronising dismissal of the recent findings in the report by the social mobility and child poverty commission reflects exactly what the report says: that an elite is running the country and is out of touch with ordinary citizens (Merit is not the be-all and end-all of good leadership, 29 August). In writing that “most countries are run largely by the products of middle-class education”, Jenkins ignores Britain’s bloated private education system that is not replicated in any other European country. He also uses the term “middle class” in a meaningless way if he equates it with our present wealthy and privileged ruling elite. The middle class by definition is in the middle!

Finally he writes that “all evils ‘starting with the education system’ is the oldest of cliches”. It is, though, a basic truth that if you allow a wealthy minority to effectively jump the educational queue by paying for the education of their children, you are helping to cement elite structures that dominate all sections of society. Only the abolition of private schooling and decent state education can bring about genuine equality of opportunity as the most progressive European nations demonstrate.
John Green

• Among the examples of how the 7% who attended private schools monopolise the top positions in society that you mention from the social mobility and child poverty commission’s report, is that 43% of newspaper columnists have that background.

Unlike the other examples, this is one you could do something about. Why not have, say, a three-month period in which you commission no articles at all from the private-school-educated elite of quality journalism. Keep the Guardian’s pages free from the whole lot, from grandees like Simon Jenkins to relative newcomers like Laurie Penny. You may find that state-educated journalists can be just as good, or even better.
John Wilson

• The social mobility and child poverty commission findings (Report, 28 August) once more publicise what we all know in our hearts, that Britain is a fundamentally unequal society in which opportunities and rewards are largely reserved for those who have attended public schools. Not only is this blatantly unjust but it prevents the submerged talents of the vast majority of people from working to the benefit of the nation.

As a political party committed to promote greater social equality, it is up to Labour to come up with an answer, and one, moreover, which will command public support so that it may be implemented. One step would be to phase in a quota system for all public appointments, including judges, diplomats, permanent secretaries, senior educational officers, BBC controllers and so on. The aim would be to move to a situation in which these choice appointments in the public service would be made in proportion to that of the ratio of the state/private school population, at the moment 93% to 7%. The party should go to the country on the slogan: “Give your child a fair chance.”
Alan Chedzoy
Radipole, Dorset

• Could it perhaps be that wealthy parents are more clever and thus have better-paid jobs than the rest of us? And that their offspring are also often above average intelligence, so they can go to high-flying universities? Similarly, do the numbers of clever people in the more academic jobs (astrophysicists, brain surgeons, judges, cabinet ministers, etc) receive higher pay? Yes, of course. It is not fashionable to point out that some people are cleverer than others, but the fact remains. It does  not mean these folk are more important, nor even better citizens, and other folk with different talents are useful in other directions, such as artists, musicians, gardeners, carpenters, etc. It takes all sorts.
Mary Smith
Upminster, Essex

• The commission report reveals nothing we didn’t already know. The statistics reveal that over a year on the BBC programme Question Time just over 40% of the panellists were Oxbridge graduates and just under 40% from private schools. Meanwhile, 71% of judges went to an independent school, as did 52% of Conservative MPs. You get the picture.

To counter the correlation of private schooling and high-powered jobs, the commission suggests employers should ask for an overview of a candidate’s academic achievements that is “university blind” and that the social background of staff should be published. Although this new bureaucracy might help, we need a more fundamental shift in culture. This is a class issue. As the wealthy rule our country, its media, the arts, the judiciary system, etc, they inherently project their own ideology, consciously or not. No amount of bureaucracy can change that.

Ethnic minorities and the white working class share the same financial barriers to private education. For example, Muslims in the UK suffer more than double the UK’s average poverty level. There are few role models in mainstream culture. Not only is the elite putting up financial barriers, it makes it harder for young members of ethnic minorities to aspire to the top professions, whether it be politics or acting (just look at programmes like Doctor Who, you will only see white – and green – faces). Social elitism projects a skewed view of Britain’s diversity.
Mohammed Ali
QED Foundation, Bradford

• I fail to understand why there is such a clamour for opening up access to the nation’s leading institutions. It is, after all, only a mere 160 years since the Northcote-Trevelyan report (1853) called for the opening up of the civil service to “the ablest and most ambitious of the youth of the country”. What’s the hurry?
Ian Worthington
Wymeswold, Leicestershire

• To help solve the problem of social mobility, let us start with something simple and remove the charitable status of private schools.
Simon Harris

• Reading the article reminded me of a friend working at the BBC who once had someone storm out of a meeting she was leading with the words: “I won’t have someone with a 2.1 from Liverpool tell me what to do!”
Ivan Ruggeri

• The Milburn report rightly condemns the system whereby a small elite from private schools and Oxbridge dominate top positions (Report condemns ‘closed shop’ of Britain’s elite, 28 August). Labour spokesman Tristram Hunt agrees with the report. Yet Hunt (private school and Oxbridge) accepted being imposed by a Labour party panel as the parliamentary candidate for Stoke-on-Trent to the loss of a capable resident of the city. As long as the Labour party is biased towards the privileged and prejudiced against the working class, the closed shop will never be opened.
Bob Holman

• Sadly, Tristram Hunt’s analysis of the social mobility and child poverty commission’s report is flawed. The report does not show that “the coalition was failing on social mobility”. On the contrary, a government which, immediately on coming to power, scraps the Education Maintenance Allowance, then triples university fees, passes school assessment reforms which disadvantage children from poorer homes, cuts funding for Sure Start centres and libraries, and appoints the majority of its cabinet from the likes of Eton and the Bullingdon club, has succeeded in achieving its objective.

As the report says, this “social engineering” has created the “elitism so embedded in Britain today”. Should a government determined to increase social mobility ever gain power, it would have to restore the pre-2010 level playing field in GCSE and A-level examinations, end not only as Owen Jones says, “the charitable status for private schools”, (A racket for the uber-privileged, 28 August), but also the exemption from VAT on private school fees, as well as properly attacking the tax avoidance industry which enables so many of those fees to be paid.

University fees have to be reduced, and a cap placed on charges for halls of residence, while the Oxbridge domination will only be ended by legislation, as these universities have long shown themselves unwilling to change. How about a law which only allows any university to recruit 7% of its undergraduates from private schools, in line with the national figure? As long as universities favour privately educated applicants, money will beget money.

Lastly, that government would require an education secretary from neither private school nor Oxbridge!
Bernie Evans

• Owen Jones (How power works in Britain, 27 August) quotes Henry Fairlie on “the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is organised”. This is what needs illuminating for the rest of us outside this matrix. I want to know the detail of who the people are who really run this country and who’s influencing them – Fairlie’s “subtle social relationships”. How are politicians, the media, civil servants, business “leaders” and “opinion formers” connected by the schools they attended, by university education, family connections, business relationships, membership of clubs, public, advisory and other bodies?

Before I can analyse, and where necessary challenge, what they do and why I need maps of these concealed configurations. Where can I find them? Without sustained exposure and illumination of the ecology of these interlocking elites I can have no confidence in our democracy, which will remain a superficial pantomime, and its future.
John Roberts
Dursley, Gloucestershire

• If only Owen Jones were leader of the opposition.
Kate Guggenheim
Halesowen, Worcestershire

Ticketless Kate Bush fan Ian, 67, from London with his photograph of the singer outside Hammersmith Ticketless Kate Bush fan Ian, 67, from London with his photograph of the singer outside Hammersmith Apollo for the first of her concerts. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Bill Hawkes, who claims to have played viola on Kate Bush’s last record, bit the hand that fed him with a miserable, curmudgeonly, mean-spirited and tin-eared rant about the current excitement surrounding her live shows (Letters, 27 August). The internet is replete with suitable ripostes about viola players. Here’s my favourite. Q: Why do viola players stand for long periods outside people’s houses? A: They can’t find the key and don’t know when to come in.
Edward Collier

• Look, I like Kate Bush: some of her music has been outstanding over the last 35 years, and her commitment to taking control of her career and ploughing her own furrow was admirable and groundbreaking in an industry used to manipulating female artists. But can we ease up on the brown-nosing adulation?

Playing 22 nights in London is simply lazy, as well as being insulting to all Bush’s fans living more than 100 miles from the capital who don’t have hundreds of pounds to spare for transport and hotels in addition to the hugely expensive tickets.

I also doubt any record company in the late 1970s would have given the undoubtedly talented young Kate the time of day if she’d been an unknown teenager in the bleak north rather than a supremely well-connected lass with friends like Dave Gilmour to kick open industry doors for her. Just adding a bit of perspective, guys.
Norman Miller

• If Bill Hawkes feels he has nothing to learn from Kate Bush in terms of musicianship, perhaps he should take a lesson from her on manners and courtesy.
Peter FitzGerald-Morris
Rochester, Kent

• Unfortunately for Bill Hawkes, who “laughed himself silly” at Kate Bush’s “nonsensical” lyrics while playing viola on her last album, his letter says a lot more about him – and not to his credit – than about the talents of the woman whose money he was happy to take while sneering at her behind her back.
Pam Thomas
Chippenham, Wiltshire

• Bill Hawkes set me thinking me of my experiences of live concerts. Hearing pop stars performing live usually left me disappointed compared to the LP. Classical music concerts had the opposite effect: there was something there that the recording lacked.

I remember in my youth hearing PJ Proby performing in Stockport. He was playing for 10 minutes before I realised who it was.
Michael Grange
St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Indian movie director Satyajit Ray (1921-92): Richard Attenborough was principal patron of the found Indian movie director Satyajit Ray (1921-92): Richard Attenborough was principal patron of the foundation set up in his memory. Photograph: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone says that Richard Attenborough always used the word “darling” because he couldn’t remember names – but there was at least one name he always remembered: Satyajit Ray. Both possessed the creativity and brilliance of the world’s finest filmmakers. Dick always said he was fortunate enough to know and have worked with Ray on The Chess Players. Dick was always proud that he was the first and principal patron of the Satyajit Ray foundation, which was set up in 1993, and he was incredibly generous in supporting it financially and on occasions presenting the annual Ray award to the directors of first feature films that demonstrated the qualities present in Ray’s own work. We feel his loss deeply and, as he would have wished, we will strive to keep Ray’s work alive for filmgoers.
Pamela Cullen
Chair of the Satyajit Ray foundation

Michael Caine in the 1967 film Funeral in Berlin: ad-lib in a bar. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar Michael Caine in the 1967 film Funeral in Berlin: ad-lib in a bar. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar

Jonathan Jones (Awe-inspiring art deserves to stay in London, 27 August) argues that the Auerbach pictures, which have been “given” to the nation in lieu of £16m of inheritance tax by Lucien Freud’s executors, should remain in London. However, the tax is owed to the UK Treasury and so the benefits of the arrangement should be shared throughout the UK. In my view, London has more than its share of artistic and cultural treasures. Perhaps Jonathan Jones would like to consider which of them might be relocated to the galleries and museums outside London as a swap for the Auerbach pictures?
Rhiannon Craig
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

• May I be the first to say I am in love with Paul Mason and ask when can I move with him to our ideal mythical city (What makes a perfect city?, 25 August)? Having seen him dance on his TV documentary about northern soul, I was already half-lost. But now I realise I can also swim in the sea with him before cycling along bicycle lanes to the theatre in a sunny courtyard in our ideal city, I am completely lost.
Christine Peacock

• Thank you for highlighting the huge problems caused by the lack of toilets in India and Africa (Report, 29 August). One easy thing we can all do is twin our toilets ( A £60 donation to toilet-twinning can really make a difference. And you get a twinning certificate to hang in the loo!
Barbara Williams
Sparsholt, Oxfordshire

• Current correspondence on inept spying (Letters, 27 August) puts me in mind of Michael Cain’s ad-lib as the spy Harry Palmer in the film Funeral in Berlin. Sitting in an airport bar, a waiter asks: “Bitte, mein Herr?” To which Cain replies: “No thanks, I’ll have a lager.”
Robert Brady
Twickenham, Middlesex

• The letter about the two martinis reminded me of a similar confusion with language on a French trip. One of our party asked another what type of beer he was drinking, the reply was “wheat”. On going to order my friend had to stop the barman after he’d poured three.
Andy Newburn
Newcastle upon Tyne


The disadvantages of Britain’s multi-tiered elitism (editorial, 28 August) start at the moment of birth. A few are born with royal privileges denied to the rest of us, including the opportunity to become head of state, a right enjoyed by every citizen in true democracies.

Next comes education. The most favoured private schools are almost exclusively for boys of wealthy parents, and so, contrary to Charity Commission requirements, “exist to benefit the narrow interests of a closed group”.

Then comes the honours system, a demeaning pyramid of deference that diminishes us all. No fair society would tolerate the class distinction ironed into every absurd title. One title conferred decades of respectability on two perverts of the worst kind.

Finally, the House of Lords, the high altar of privilege, its unelected life members eagerly sought as adornments to boardrooms or television studios. Properly qualified but untitled candidates are passed over, and talent lost to the nation.

It will take a lot more than the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s feeble wish list to undo the wrongs inflicted on ordinary people by this wicked witch’s brew of discrimination.

John Hughes
Brentford, Middlesex

Shock! Horror! Parliament has just discovered that British society is rigged from top to bottom. Oh me! Oh my! When did this happen? The “ordinary people” have become bewitched by tradition and flummery, baubles and trinkets. Now they believe in kings and queens and princes and princesses and pixies and goblins and fairies. Something must be done. Send in Ofsted to be Very Rigorous. And to set New Targets.

Miles Secker
Heckington, Lincolnshire

The rotten borough of Rotherham

Your report (28 August) mentions residents lamenting that none of the Rotherham councillors have resigned. Yet there has been an entire electoral cycle since this issue first arose in 2010.

Neither Conservative nor Labour governments have done anything to remove the rotten boroughs in local government in England and Wales caused by the first-past-the-post system. Councillors in Rotherham and elsewhere can act with impunity, knowing that their party will be in power for generations whatever they do.

If the Liberal Democrats had insisted on STV for local government as part of the Coalition agreement then that would have been a more long-lasting legacy of their five years in office.

Christopher Anton


Having read the 159-page report on the Rotherham abuse scandal, I am impressed and angered. The report is clear, unequivocal and lucid. It’s easy to follow and a “must read”.

But as one reads it, anger about the treatment of the girls is replaced by much stronger feelings of rage at the arrogant individuals who chose to ignore the evidence.

Most striking is the treatment of the Home Office-sponsored researcher who analysed and created a report years ago that was not acted upon by the councillors and the local police commander.

Distressed by their reaction, she wrote to the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. The reaction from the police commander was to call her in and reprimand her for going over his head rather than discuss the issues she had identified. Who was this jack-in-office? Is he still employed? Does he have a pension?

At last, this researcher is vindicated; the report says that in all particulars, save some dates, her report was accurate.

Tim Brook


Presumably there now will be sighs of relief in councils and other departments throughout the land in the certainty that their jobs, salaries and pensions are not at risk, and only lessons need to be learnt.

Laurence Shields
Wingerworth, Derbyshire

Tory defector’s battleground

Few places in the South-east of England rank as highly as Clacton-on-Sea and the surrounding area as requiring an injection of vociferous new thinking, investment and national attention.

There are areas experiencing significant social deprivation, and  health provision is at breaking-point as a result of a barely coherent strategy from NHS England. Douglas Carswell’s constituents would be right to welcome the spotlight they will find themselves under over the coming weeks and months, as their former Tory MP fights a by-election following his move to Ukip.

However, if Douglas is to be truly effective in addressing the many very real issues affecting the local area, he will have to prove himself as adept at health and social care policy as he has at generating headlines – something he has sadly failed to demonstrate during the course of his current tenure.

Dr Jonathan Geldard
Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

Will there be punch-ups on the beach at Clacton-on-Sea between the modernisers and the off-your-rockers? My only observation is to all centre-ground Conservatives and Labour members: join the mods. That is, the Liberal Democrats.

Richard Grant
Burley, Hampshire


Look forward to grammar schools

I am surprised to see that your editorial on Douglas Carswell’s defection from the Tories (29 August) makes a throwaway comment about grammar schools being “backwards-looking”.

Surely a system where children are sent to “better” schools on the basis of academic merit is more forwards-looking than one where children are selected through their parents’ postcode (often based on family wealth).

With the debate about elitism in British society and the glut of private school pupils at the top of the pile, a debate over the reintroduction of selective state education in some form may be pertinent, especially since the fall in social mobility has coincided with the abolition of grammar schools.

In fact, according to a 2013 YouGov poll, 80 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds were in favour of increasing the provision of grammar schools.

Harrison Edmonds
Cheadle, Cheshire

The Sutton Trust is deluded (“Parents pay half a million for state school education”, 26 August). Take the children from the “best” schools (that is the middle-class children) and move them to the worst schools, and vice versa with the poor children, move them to the best schools. Suddenly the “worst” schools, despite being in poor areas, will become the best.

Teachers have very little effect. A school is just a collection of young people in a building; they are good when they are full of children who have been imbued with a desire to learn from an early age. They are murder when there is a critical mass of children who reject learning because their families have no idea how to support them.

Stop chasing red herrings looking for easy solutions, and address the real issue, which is making proper provision for all children from birth. This would cost a fortune.

Catherine Lane


Fighting for Isis could be treason

British citizens who, in the words of the 1351 statute law, adhere to the Queen’s enemies in her realm, giving them aid and comfort in her realm or elsewhere, are guilty of treason. And the 1916 trial of Roger Casement established that the wording included acts committed abroad.

If the UK takes hostile action against the self-styled “Islamic State”, then any British citizens who actively support that entity are guilty accordingly. They could also be deemed to have adopted a dual nationality, and hence could lawfully be deprived of UK citizenship without breaching international law.

Philip Goldenberg

Too much sport? Impossible!

Following various letters complaining about too much sport of one kind or another being reported, I should like to say that I prefer the sports writing in The Independent to that of any other newspaper.

I even read the news about sports I have absolutely no interest in – Formula One, for example. And although I think all of your football writers are great, Sam Wallace is, in my opinion, the best football journalist in the UK.

Gary Clark
London EC2


You can survive without Kate Bush

Don’t worry, Archie Bland (28 August), I couldn’t care less about Kate Bush or her type of music; and guess what, my heart is still behaving normally, I get out of bed in the morning and enjoy life hugely without listening to a single note played or uttered by her.

I’m just waiting for Cameron to tweet his admiration of Mme Bush’s art, to show he’s so achingly hip and trendy.

Glynne Williams
London E17


Views of Scotland from outside range as widely as those within the country

Sir, Over the past year I have found myself moving towards being a Yes supporter. I am English, so this is academic, but the more I examine where England is as a nation, the more I am appalled at the failure of socio-economic neo-liberalism that creates a tiny powerful elite while marginalising everybody else.

From housing to welfare to justice, to education to economic fairness we in England are morally skewered. That Scotland has a chance to shake off the legacy of elitism and exclusion is fantastic. In doing so I hope Scotland provides the radical mind shift that we in England so desperately need to embrace fairer ways of doing things.

The earthquake that would come from Scottish independence would force us to rightly look at ourselves and what we truly stand for.

Gerard Brown

London W2

Sir, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown heading the No campaign? Where are the English politicians telling Scotland why we want them, why we need them and why they should stay with us?

Leslie Howard

St Albans

Sir, Listening to the Yes campaign one might think that Scots are an oppressed people living in poor conditions. But our island is a haven of freedom and relative prosperity which people risk their lives to join. What sort of paradise do the Scots think they can create by this messy, expensive and divisive divorce?

Professor Robert Elkeles

Northwood, Middx

Sir, It defies logic that Scotland might retain the pound. It would remain hugely dependent on the remaining UK government’s economic policy but without any representation. It is better off now.

Michael Old

Poole, Dorset

Sir, With this recent defection of a Conservative MP to Ukip, the upcoming Scottish referendum and a possible future referendum on EU membership, it is not conceivable that in the near future we could be out of the European Union while Scotland is in.

Dan Green

Ewell, Surrey

Sir, I have, like most in England, only had a passing interest in the Scottish referendum but I would be keen to know what the chances are of keeping “English” Summer Time throughout the year if the Scots decide to depart, as I am certain it would improve the road safety of the inhabitants south of the border.

It would be left to the Highland dairy industry to plead directly with Alex Salmond for their historical light-saving advantage that we have afforded them in the past.

Stephen Williams

Saffron Walden

Sir, There are a dozen countries in the EU with populations similar to or smaller than Scotland’s. None shows any desire to change its status even if its economy is dependent upon its larger neighbours. The arguments so far have concentrated on the economic disadvantages of a Yes vote. Little regard has been given to national pride or the emotional appeal of self-rule. It would be strange if Scotland were to enter the history books as the nation that rejected independence. Is it not said that it is better to be governed badly by one’s own than to be ruled well by strangers?

Charles Mccarthy

Stamford, Lincs

Not all private school pupils come from predictably privileged backgounds

Sir, I am wary of conclusions drawn from statistics outlined in your article about the backgrounds of people in top jobs (“Old boys and girls still take the top jobs”, Aug 28).

The statistics do not say how
such people came to be privately educated. Some fit the upper-class stereotype, of course, but many do not. Sport is an example. Public schools often offer scholarships to talented individuals who then go on to greater things.

I suspect that a great many people come from ordinary families which, in the previous generation or two, have been successful after a state school education. In turn, they decided to seek what they perceive to be best for their offspring by providing for them a private education.

If we look at the wider backgrounds of these “top” people, a different picture emerges: more people from ordinary backgrounds end up in influential positions than is generally realised, and this is to be applauded.

Ian Hale

Farnham Common, Bucks

Cramped airline seats provoke rage, despair and fury, even before the one in front starts to tip back …

Sir, Recent polls suggest that Janice Turner is very much in a minority in seeking to defend her “right” to recline her airline seat (“Why I will defend my air space to the last”, Aug 28). I don’t use a laptop, but if she puts her seat back with me sitting behind her then she is likely to find herself with an impression of my kneecaps in her lower back as most airlines simply provide insufficient economy class legroom for any normal sized person.

No one has a right to make themselves comfy at the expense of the person behind but unfortunately there are many who still do.

Colin Bishop

Cranleigh, Surrey

Sir, With all sympathy to Janice Turner, if you’re 6ft 6in with non-detachable legs some intrusion into the next row’s reclining rights is unavoidable. Selfish passengers who claim those rights by repeatedly slamming their backrest into your knees just make life worse for both of us. Nor is this a special plea for men. I suspect women are just as affected by the issue as men. You only need to look around in the street to see that our height is no longer exceptional.

derek Nudd

Portsmouth, Hants

The charity asserts its right to speak out on the causes of the social ills it seeks to address

Sir, Tim Montgomerie (“You don’t save children by arming terrorists”, Aug 28), criticises Oxfam for speaking out on austerity in Britain and Europe. We speak out on these issues because our research and experience tell us that cuts in spending and increases in indirect taxation are having a detrimental impact on poverty reduction. In the UK austerity is hurting society’s poorest. It is important to stress, as we have done, that this is not just an issue for the UK — the UN has said that fiscal tightening in a number of developed countries has hurt global growth and pushed millions more into poverty.

It is Oxfam’s job to highlight not just the problems of poverty but also the underlying causes. We do not see that as a left or right issue.

Ben Phillips

Director of Campaigns, Policy and Influencing, Oxfam

Sometimes we should allow very old people the comfort of a peaceful departure from this life

Sir, While baking my mother’s 103rd birthday cake last week I read your report “Four in five doctors would not help patients to end their lives” (Aug 23).

There is an associated aspect of this important ethical dilemma which I believe we, as a society, are ignoring. I applaud Professor Raymond Tallis’s advocacy of the “secondary aim” of doctors — the reduction of suffering.

My mother’s death has been postponed three times in the past five years by medical intervention which was unavailable to an earlier generation. She suffers increasing levels of pain, discomfort, distress and miserable confusion. This suffering comes after an active, fulfilled and positive life. It is unbearable to watch, and her situation is far from unique.

In a caring society, surely we need sometimes to allow very old people to die, simply offering them pain relief and a peaceful departure from this life?

Rosie Wood


Not all private school pupils come from predictably privileged backgounds

Sir, I am wary of conclusions drawn from statistics outlined in your article about the backgrounds of people in top jobs (“Old boys and girls still take the top jobs”, Aug 28).

The statistics do not say how
such people came to be privately educated. Some fit the upper-class stereotype, of course, but many do not. Sport is an example. Public schools often offer scholarships to talented individuals who then go on to greater things.

I suspect that a great many people come from ordinary families which, in the previous generation or two, have been successful after a state school education. In turn, they decided to seek what they perceive to be best for their offspring by providing for them a private education.

If we look at the wider backgrounds of these “top” people, a different picture emerges: more people from ordinary backgrounds end up in influential positions than is generally realised, and this is to be applauded.

Ian Hale

Farnham Common, Buck


SIR – There will be conflicting views about whether Douglas Carswell is to be praised for leaving the Conservative Party and joining the UK Independence Party.

However, people on both sides should commend him for standing down from the House of Commons and contesting a by-election with his new party. Mr Carswell clearly understands that he is accountable as a Member of Parliament to the electors of Clacton and to no one else.

Martin Collier
St Ives, Huntingdonshire

SIR – As a constituent of Douglas Carswell and a lifelong Conservative, I welcome his decision to join Ukip.

David Cameron has no chance of substantial change in our relationship with the EU. All we get with him is a Prime Minister returning from endless negotiations waving a worthless “peace in our time” document.

R G Hopgood
Kirby-le-Soken, Essex

Ebola in Britain

SIR – I nursed for many years in infectious disease areas at Great Ormond Street and St Mary’s, Paddington. My colleagues and I frequently travelled to collect and treat the latest exotic, unidentified fever to arrive at Heathrow. We are all alive.

I never volunteered to serve abroad. Many colleagues did. Their expectation of repatriation in emergency was entirely reasonable, in fact tourist-standard, and grudging it is miserable.

Stephen Dunn

SIR – You describe William Pooley, the British nurse who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, as a “hero”.

We have Red Cross medals, and the Florence Nightingale Medal (awarded to women), but not all nurses are female. Our many aid workers do equally important work to improve the lives of people they do not know. They also need to be recognised by the nation for their brave actions.

Nathan Gill MEP (Ukip)
Llangefni, Anglesey

Miliband’s next gig

SIR – Ed Miliband taking a leaf out of Kate Bush’s book may not be a bad idea. After all, she disappeared from public view for 35 years.

Andrew Holgate
Woodley, Cheshire

Blessed e-cigarettes

SIR – I was a heavy smoker for more than 60 years and had no problems with coughing nor any shortness of breath. However, a pre-op check revealed a small growth on my left lung, which was successfully removed by keyhole surgery.

E-cigarettes saved my sanity during my recovery, and I bless the people who invented them. I am able to use them in most cafés, pubs and restaurants, although never during a meal, and my wife is delighted that the furniture no longer “stinks”.

Now some busybodies want to ban them. Why? Are we going to allow such legislation to be passed?

David Craddock
Radstock, Somerset

SIR – What a pleasure it has been, since the smoking ban came into effect in 2007, to breathe in clean air and no longer have to gaze at things through a haze of smoke.

Whether or not e-cigarette vapour causes lasting harm to bystanders is a consideration for the experts, but the thought of breathing in visible vapours exhaled from strangers is just as distasteful as breathing in cigarette smoke was.

As a reformed smoker, fortunate enough to have seen the light through the smoke many years ago, I am in favour of banning e-cigarettes from public buildings.

Barry Morris
Bath, Somerset

SIR – I am a seasoned smoker whose lung capacity has greatly improved thanks to e-cigarettes. I am therefore disappointed to discover the World Health Organisation wants proof that e-cigarettes do no harm.

We know inhalation of sulphurous and other gases is bad. To ensure coherence of policy, will they now regulate flatulence to avoid passive inhalation? They could start by prohibiting entry to public places within four hours of eating boiled eggs.

John F Jordan

Catching fire

SIR – I disagree with Rupert Christiansen’s assessment of his grandfather Arthur Christiansen’s acting in The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

He brought an air of authenticity that the established actors (such as Edward Judd, Leo McKern and Janet Munro) did not.

Alan Stranks
West Molesey, Surrey

Scotland’s money

SIR – Alex Salmond wants a full currency union with Westminster after having won independence for Scotland, which is contradictory. As for using the pound, or a currency tied to the pound, Ireland tried that from 1928 until 1979. Freeing the punt from sterling was an essential part of having an internationally competitive economy, an advantage lost with the euro.

Jeremy Eves
Bangor, County Down

Exit this way

SIR – I read in Peter Oborne’s column that “Bercow is now looking for a way out”. We should help him find it quickly.

Morton Morris
London NW2

Going without

SIR – Driverless cars, windowless planes, toiletless trains, a could-not-care-less society and life’s no fun any more.

Ray Black
Abersychan, Monmouthshire

Devastated, indeed, by the over-use of words

SIR – Which is the most over-used word in the English language? Indeed. Why do we say “Thank you very much indeed”, when we can just say “Thank you very much”? Why “Well done, indeed” instead of just “Well done”?

Ken Norman
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Surely the most used and abused word in the English language has to be devastated.

Diane Bingham
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – The most over-used words are ahead of. What has happened to before?

Stanley Rubin
Whitefield, Lancashire

SIR – The increasing misuse of sustainable is not sustainable.

Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire

SIR – Richard Cook asks “What has happened to me?” (Letters, August 28).

I can’t answer him. Rather, I commiserate, as I received a telephone call the other day in which the person asked: “Have yourselves heard of ourselves?” I was lost for words.

David Shaw
Codford, Wiltshire

SIR – I notice that on radio and television weather forecasts, temperatures no longer rise, they lift. Lift what, exactly?

Chris Wright
Carnforth, Lancashire

SIR – Reading David Cleave’s letter (August 22) reminded me that the word cleave is one of only two words I know that each have two diametrically opposite meanings: cleave can mean either “join together” or “split apart”, according to context.

The other word, used colloquially in one of its meanings, is wicked.

Tim Nixon
Braunton, Devon

SIR – Obviously, obviously.

Jenny Bundy
Lymington, Hampshire

Is a blackbird behind the curse of the shallots?

Blackbirds accused of causing havoc in vegetable patches across the country

BBlackbirds on average rise 11 minutes after daybreak

Blackbirds: the early bird catches the shallot Photo: ALAMY

6:59AM BST 29 Aug 2014


SIR – The culprits responsible for the destruction of Margaret Mackley’s shallot patch in Devon are undoubtedly blackbirds – nasty, malevolent creatures.

Our garden in Lincolnshire is currently being preyed upon by a super-sized female trio of these avian thugs.

Barbara and Nick Shimmin
Helpringham, Lincolnshire

SIR – The curse of the Lady of Shalott?

Helen Mills
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

The extent to which officials in Rotherham failed in their duties to protect children is now becoming clear

Professor Alexis Jay

Professor Alexis Jay wrote the latest report into child sex abuse in Rotherham Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 29 Aug 2014


SIR – We live in a society that can devise, enact and enforce a ban on light bulbs but cannot protect children from abuse on an industrial scale.

Once again public officials show no inkling of remorse nor any idea that serving the public just might be what their jobs are about.

John Smith
Great Moulton, Norfolk

SIR – The extent to which a blind eye has been turned to child sex abuse in Rotherham would appear to warrant prosecution of some officials as accessories to the abuse. A trial would reveal more than an inquiry.

Bill Parish
Hayes, Kent

SIR – I was a middle manager at Rotherham council from 1987 to 1999, responsible for taxi and private hire licensing. Illegal plying for hire by private hire vehicle drivers was a major problem. A majority of licensed drivers were Asian, and enforcement was often met by accusations of racial discrimination. Yet we were only doing our jobs.

I recall a senior councillor requiring me on one occasion to produce statistics on the issue of licences to prove that I wasn’t racially motivated. It put me under massive pressure.

David Wright
Worksop, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Professor Alexis Jay’s report disclosed that a police officer dismissed a case of a 12-year-girl having sex with five men because the acts had been “consensual”. A police officer should know that sex with any child under 16 is statutory rape even if the child consents. The law is there to protect children from themselves as well as against predators.

Chris Platford
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – For more than a decade, South Yorkshire Police apparently disregarded allegations of gang rape and child sex abuse. This is the same police force that, accompanied by a BBC television entourage, raided the home of Sir Cliff Richard to investigate a single historic complaint of alleged sexual assault.

I look forward to further television coverage of dawn raids in South Yorkshire.

John Dickinson
Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, Leicestershire

SIR – Inhuman lack of care in Mid-Staffordshire hospitals, the parliamentary expenses scandal, the Trojan horse schools affair in Birmingham, horrors at the BBC and now widespread incompetence by Rotherham social workers and council bosses.

How many of those responsible have resigned, been sacked, or criminally charged? How many of those responsible have been promoted?

Philip March
Croydon, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Noel Whelan (“Abortion amendment didn’t happen by accident”, Opinion & Analysis, August 29th) seems to suggest that “the political reality” of an alleged lack of interest in an abortion referendum matters more than the lived reality of all women of childbearing age living in Ireland. In any kind of civilised society, the discomfort of strangers should never outweigh the real lives of women who find themselves with decisions to make about their own bodies, responsibilities and capacities. As a woman, I truly hope that the Irish electorate views me as a human being with rights over my own body and health. As an Irish woman, it seems increasingly clear that it does not. – Yours, etc,


Ranelagh Village,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Barry Walsh and Paul Daly (August 28th) are quite correct to state that it is the people who voted to amend the constitution to adopt Article 40.3.3. What made the matter come before the people, however, has its genesis in the political instability that was successfully exploited by the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign. Three general elections were held between 1981 and 1983, the year of the referendum. The passage of the amendment Bill through the Oireachtas cannot be unrelated to the fact that it coincided with one of the weakest governments in the history of the State.

In light of the travel amendment, also duly adopted by the people, I wonder precisely what ethical commitment the Constitution currently protects. The cognitive dissonance behind the current position which enables abortion unless you are unable to travel is redolent of a political and intellectual immaturity that Fintan O’Toole has perfectly described in relation to other social questions such as contraception, divorce and homosexuality. These are all issues which took Irish society far too long to face up to. – Yours, etc,


The Rise,

Bishopstown, Cork.

Sir, – As an Irish GP working in the NHS in England for the past 30 years, I read with interest the contrasting articles on August 23rd by Diarmaid Ferriter (“Class secrecy and morality shaped abortion question”) and Breda O’Brien (“There are two very vulnerable people in this nightmare”).

My experience of a system where abortion is in effect available on demand is that it has little if any benefit for women in terms of equality, dignity or rights. Indeed I would suggest that the opposite is the case. I work in an inner-city area with high levels of social and financial deprivation and the situation may be different for women from higher social classes.

What I see is that when women become pregnant, even if it appears initially that the pregnancy was unplanned, the decision on proceeding with the pregnancy or aborting depends on whether the woman has the support of her partner or her family. If the woman has support, in general, the pregnancy goes ahead. My colleagues and I have often discussed the phenomenon of women who months after having an abortion become pregnant again and this time go ahead with the pregnancy.

What had changed? In our experience the situation tends to be that the woman’s partner or family have now come to terms with the idea of her being pregnant and having a baby and have rallied in support. To suggest that this support should happen first time is seen to be denying a woman’s right to choose. It cannot be right to put women through the distress of an abortion when we men or parents, families and society should be providing the support that the woman really wants rather than the easier option for us of supporting abortion.

There are of course situations where these observations are not relevant and a pregnancy is truly unwanted. I don’t have an answer to this.

I remember a friend, one of the British Medical Association’s advisory committee to the British government preparing the 1967 Abortion Act who said, referring to the subsequent availability of abortion on demand, “This is not what we had intended would happen when the Act was introduced”. – Yours, etc,


Prospect Medical Group,

Westgate Road,

Newcastle upon Tyne,


Sir, – Carter Dillard (August 28th) argues that “countries are free to implement population policies that gently guide their citizens to make good decisions, in much the way that some states guide their citizens to wear seatbelts and avoid cigarettes”. However unlike wearing seatbelts and avoiding smoking, the long-term effects of China’s one child policy are not yet known.

The extra population might have drained China of resources, and it is probably more economically powerful as a result of the one child policy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Chinese society is “better”. Major social changes are occurring in China’s population. Confucian teachings (among other things) have influenced a distinct preference for male children in Chinese society. Therefore we see an increase in sex-selective abortion, a lack of care for female babies, and a rising gender imbalance. Words such as “cousin”, “aunt” and “uncle” are losing their meaning. There is huge pressure on men to marry, and there is a danger that the realm of marriage may become a reality only for the privileged upper class.

Vanessa Fong of Harvard University, in her extensive studies on the one child policy, finds that many of China’s “only children” have developed behavioural problems and negative personality traits.

While many of these areas will require much more in-depth investigation over the coming years, to create a dichotomy whereby “population control equals good” and “population growth equals bad” in China, without examining the effects of both in a more nuanced manner, is misleading and disingenuous. – Yours, etc,


Davis Terrace,

Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Sir, – Much of the recent commentary on the proliferation of low-quota CAO entry routes claims that it has been driven by colleges fighting to secure high-points prestige courses (“Universities have been ‘using the points system’ to inflate demand”, Front Page, August 28th). This is a simplification of a very complex problem, and credits us with a level of organising ability that I suspect we do not possess.

Given the cost structure and the nature of academic appointments in higher education institutions, it is extremely difficult to reallocate resources in the short and even in the medium terms. If a college experiences a significant shift in student preferences from one discipline to another, one discipline will find itself underutilised – the other under-resourced.

A tried and trusted way of managing demand in this type of environment is to use a quota system to channel demand to match the resources available. Irish higher education institutions mostly manage demand through CAO quotas at intake – ensuring as far as possible that students will be well serviced. Some demand management occurs after intake, where, for example, a general science intake is allocated across the various science specialisms at the end of two years of study.

In a severely resource-constrained environment, with very “sticky” resources, the arguments for using quotas at point of entry are strong, not only from the point of view of resource management, but also for the assurance it gives successful applicants that they can complete the course they choose. The arguments for allocating demand at some point after entry are also strong; not least that it allows students to experience a broad range of courses before they make important intellectual and life choices.

Nevertheless, it is widely agreed that our current entry system has spun somewhat out of control, and is in need of the kind of “pruning” that university presidents have recently promised. But make no mistake, demand will have to be managed at some point, and arguably, it is more difficult to manage after intake.

The notion that university presidents manipulate admissions quotas in an effort to outdo each other in a race for high-point prestige courses is crass, and a practice that I do not recognise over a long career in the sector. – Yours, etc,


School of Business,

Trinity College Dublin.

Sir, – If we want to find anything positive out of the conjuncture of the home rule crisis and the outbreak of the first World War, we might recall that it took tens of thousands of adult Irish males willing to fight for, or against home rule and sent them overseas to kill foreigners instead of each other. The British War Office paid them for their services and gave money to their dependants while we were spared the collateral damage of sectarian, tribal warfare.

Meanwhile the disarming of the Irish Volunteers after the Easter Rising in 1916 ensured that when war did eventually come to Ireland, from 1919 to 1924, it was on a much more limited scale than would otherwise have been the case.

Compared with other combatants in Europe we came off comparatively lightly. The absence of guns and people willing to use them was a blessing in disguise. As subsequent events proved, political violence could not cure the underlying social and economic maladies that beset Irish society north and south in subsequent decades. – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s good that this campaign is highlighting one of Ireland’s hidden treasures. It seems everyone agrees that this is an important route, and the only issue seems to be how best to share it and facilitate access. Here I must declare an interest: I so like the Barrow Way, and believe more people should discover and enjoy it, that last year I made an app and audio guide to the full 116km, from Lowtown to St Mullins, with funding from Waterways Ireland.

Having canoed, cycled and walked the Barrow, I can say that the grassy towpath is not suitable for cycling, other than over very short distances. The grassy surface is often highly “corrugated” by vehicle tyres, and cycling over this is punishing – even one mile can bring tears to your eyes! Ironically, some of this damage is caused by the machines that are used to maintain the grassy towpath sections.

No one wants a high-speed tarmac cycle lane, but a conditioned gravel path, covering approximately half the towpath, would mean cyclists could share the way with walkers and anglers, and enjoy Ireland’s loveliest off-road route.

The Barrow was once a busy industrial river, with noisy mills and cargo traffic. Today, you can drive a car along the path in places, to access private residences. There is surely room for cyclists?

This would create a stunning long-distance route with tremendous tourism potential, and open the Barrow Way to more people in a sensitive way.– Yours, etc,


Manor Street,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Your reviewer Donald Clarke finds the Newfoundland film The Grand Seduction (“Craggy veterans steal the show”, August 29th) verges on the twee because it features a doctorless small town with the name of (“oh, dear!”) Tickle Head.

Clearly Mr Clarke knows little about Newfoundland. Many small towns in Canada, especially in Newfoundland, lack a family doctor. Enticing a doctor to town is a major challenge for small, remote communities.

And Tickle Head is by no means a fanciful name for a small Newfoundland outport. Ragged Harbour, Bat’s Path End, The Gut, Heart’s Delight and Heart’s Desire are all names of real communities in Newfoundland. And so are Baker’s Tickle, Black Tickle, and Chimney Tickle.

Maybe a trip to Newfoundland might tickle Mr Clarke’s fancy. – Yours, etc,


Berkley Avenue,

Ottawa, Canada.

Sir, – The display of a rainbow flag by An Garda Síochána during the upcoming Limerick Gay Pride festival is a simple gesture that is long overdue and very welcome.While I wholeheartedly agree that the Garda should, must, and do apply the law equally and fairly to all they encounter, I am quite frankly offended that this modest gesture is criticised. Need we bear in mind that since 1993 homosexuality is no longer considered a crime in Ireland and that all of our citizens should be treated equally and with respect?

That said, community outreach is a very important part of policing; minority groups, including those who identify as LGBT, must be represented, protected and supported. Stating your support for a minority does not detract from anything; if anything it educates and ensures that we all care more for our fellow citizens. What’s bad about that ? – Yours, etc,


Jervis Park,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – We have all these recommendations from the local bishops and priests of the church regarding what’s acceptable in terms of music, readings and eulogies for Catholic funerals yet when someone known to the priest, to the town, to the country or the world dies, everything goes out the window.

When my loved ones died over the years, I had my work cut out to get their names pronounced correctly. Asking permission to say a few words had to be framed as a “short thanksgiving” after communion. For double standards, I give the prize to the Irish Catholic Church – for the umpteenth time. – Yours, etc,


Beau Street,


Sir, – Further to “Anger among workers after second wage delay in a month” (August 28th), should a public servant miss a direct debit payment to a bank, the bank will charge €10 for the missed payment.

Am I to assume that, now that the Bank of Ireland has missed two payments to the public servants, they are all due €20 from the banks? – Yours, etc,


Pococke Lower, Kilkenny.

Sir, – As a resident of Tralee, I look forward to The Irish Times of the weekend after the Rose festival because I enjoy the reviews and your journalists’ efforts to distance themselves from an event which obviously isn’t high brow enough for frequenters of drinks receptions in Dublin. Predictably, this year your writers did not disappoint.

If your journalists who stay in the safety of southside Dublin have nothing good to say about the Rose of Tralee, send them down to us for re-education next year! We won’t tell their friends. – Yours, etc,


Rock Street,

Tralee, Co Kerry.

Sir, – I feel obliged to point out that, despite his long career, James Alexander Gordon (“Much loved voice of BBC’s Saturday soccer results service”, Obitiaries, August 23rd) never had occasion to read out the scoreline Manchester United 5 Liverpool 0. – Yours, etc,


Edenasop East,

Fintona, Co Tyrone.

Is it time to ask if policies and procedures in all sections of the public service have become so focused on management systems that the primary function of public service, namely to serve the needs of ‘the public’, has been compromised.

Surely the way in which a society is governed is a reflection of the importance our Government, local governments and our heads of public service place on their responsibilities to every citizen of the State?

Media coverage on issues relating to principal private residence taxes, health service inaccessibility, educational disadvantage, homelessness and many other social issues suggests that the systems, policies and procedures and legislation are the primary determinates of how people are treated.

I had always been reared to believe that leaders were people with vision and integrity. When issues were raised in all areas of social governance, I expected that those leaders would respond honestly and openly to provide the rationale for matters that affected ordinary people.

More and more, I have become disillusioned by the silence that seems to permeate the higher echelons of all those with leadership responsibilities

It is not acceptable that countless people are homeless in this country. It is even more unacceptable that Government and local councils claim to be unable to address this problem in a much shorter timeframe than currently proposed.

There are solutions, but only if our ‘leaders’ recognise the cancerous nature of this deprivation.

It is not acceptable that those in need have huge difficulties in accessing treatment in the public health service. It is not acceptable that access to education is becoming more dependent on economic status and that the notion of equal access for all has been erased.

It is not acceptable that the avoidance of admitting any liability for past injustices governs the responses of our public representatives and indeed the leaders of our public services. It is not acceptable that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

There are so many things in our society that are not acceptable and yet those who have been tasked to govern and lead, namely our Government, local councils and heads of the public service, take no responsibility and hide behind systems of governance, policies and procedures which they have constructed.

Fred Meaney, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Nash steps out of bounds

I think Junior Minister Ged Nash needs a quick lesson in political boundaries. Private sector employees’ wages are ultimately determined by the businesses that employ them, and should not be the concern of politicians.

The factors that shape such determinations are staggeringly varied, depending on the particular business in question. Interestingly, one significant influencing factor on wage levels in the economy is employment, and this determinant engages the straightforward economics of supply and demand.

If Mr Nash could take Jobs Minister Richard Bruton‘s lead and contribute ideas that may assist job-growth generally then perhaps he will be doing the State some service – after all, the greater the number of people at work, the higher average wages will be.

It is bewildering to see a Labour minister’s focus on increasing the wages of those people already lucky enough to be in employment at a time when unemployment is still exceptionally high.

Talking up the economy is all well and good, but it does little to put money into the pockets of struggling small and medium enterprises, the businesses that have to pay the wages. It might do the minister no harm to remember that.

Keith Winters, Riverview, Waterford

Perpetuating smoking

As someone who has worked for decades on policy measures to reduce the horrendous toll from smoking, it was a great pleasure to read Dr Ruairi Hanley’s column on e-cigarettes (Irish Independent, August 29), while I was in this country to drop my daughter off at medical school.

Those people, including some misinformed and misguided officials at WHO, who are seeking to put barriers in the way of a massively less hazardous replacement for smoking are perpetuating smoking.

As Dr Hanley points out, what we need are policies that encourage smokers to reduce their risks rather than the pursuit of an unscientific and inhumane abstinence-only campaign against nicotine. If his clear thinking and compassion for the people he treats is any indication of the views of the profession here, it reassures me that my daughter’s choice to study medicine in Ireland was a good one.

David Sweanor, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, Canada

Coalition needs a reality check

We have an official unemployment rate of more than 11pc in Ireland and continuing emigration of our talented young people, yet a big campaign for same-sex “marriage” is the Government’s priority for next year (Irish Independent, August 29)?

The current Government needs a further reality check.

John B Reid, Monkstown, Co Dublin

The cock-up to bonus ratio

I wish to ask your readers a simple question, one which they should be able to answer in less time than it takes to read this letter: do they think that Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher’s next bonus will be affected by the recent cock-up over payment of wages to various account holders?

Brian Cosgrove, Cornelscourt, Dublin 18

Thank the taxpayer

A Dublin bus just passed me with an advertisement for a building society that reads “We wouldn’t have this house if it wasn’t for …”.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a large billboard display on behalf of our Irish financial institutions that reads, “If it wasn’t for the Irish taxpayer, we wouldn’t have a business”.

How about it Enda? It would win some votes.

Darren Williams, Dublin 18

Coexistence in the Middle East

Siobhan O Connor’s article (Irish Independent, August 29) was inspiring and bold, especially as it comes at a crucial time when we hear about Christians being driven from their homes in droves in Iraq, and other minorities being humiliated and mistreated by Islamic extremists.

It is true that spirituality is seeing things more clearly and that it is through adversity that we gain strength. The recent bombardments of Gaza, and Western governments’ repressive policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, have undeniably inflamed tensions between a myriad of religious groups and cultures.

However, religions have always coexisted harmoniously with each other and the Middle East has always been a sanctuary for those fleeing religious persecution.

In Jordan, Christians constitute 7pc of the population. They were in Jordan 600 years before Muslims, making them the most ancient Christian community in the world.

They enjoy political, religious and social rights equal to Muslims, and their rights are safeguarded by the state and the law. They continue to play a leading role in interfaith harmony and all walks of life.

Even in Syria, Christians were safe for centuries. Armenians used to have al Arman neighbourhood (the Armenian quarter in the capital city, Damascus), where they prospered.

At the present time, Jordan is an oasis of stability, tranquillity and peace in a region ravaged with atrocities committed in the name of God.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London, NW2

Irish Independent

Irish Independent:


August 29, 2014

29 August 2014 Checkup

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I go to the health center for a checkup

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, corn for tea and her back pain has flared up!


Dr Jack Dominian – obituary

Dr Jack Dominian was a psychiatrist and Catholic theologian who celebrated loving sex between unmarried and gay partners

Dr Jack Dominian, psychiatrist

Dr Jack Dominian

7:15PM BST 28 Aug 2014


Dr Jack Dominian, who has died aged 84, was a British psychiatrist and Roman Catholic theologian who championed a rethink on Christian sexual ethics at the same time as he fought to uphold the institution of marriage.

As early as 1977, Dominian had warned against the Catholic Church’s preoccupation with marital chastity at the expense of other factors in a successful marriage. Writing shortly after the Vatican had published its Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics decrying the corruption of moral standards brought about by the “unbridled exaltation of sex”, Dominian outlined his own Proposals for a New Sexual Ethic. There he argued that the presence of a genuine love between two people – whether they be married or not – validates sex, making it an activity worthy of celebration. Sexual pleasure, he wrote, must not be trivialised in the eyes of the Church, being one of the “gifts of God to Man which can become the springs of joy, pleasure and loving communication”.

Dominian went on to extend the same argument in defence of the love between same-sex couples. To think of sex solely in terms of procreation, he wrote in New Internationalist in 1986, was to deny its “capacity to give life in a more than biological sense”, its role in strengthening a couple’s sexual identity and their sense of commitment to each other. While Dominian admitted that the teachings of the Bible condemned homosexual practices, he ventured that same-sex marriages would one day be possible, and that couples should receive the support of Church and State.

At that time Dominian was working as a senior consultant at the Central Middlesex Hospital in Acton, where he had been struck by the number of dissolved and unhappy marriages among his patients. Wanting to understand more, in 1971 he founded the Marriage Research Centre (now One Plus One) to conduct research and offer marriage advice.

Under his direction the centre tracked the progress of 65 volunteer couples from their wedding day in 1979 through the first six years of marriage, and then at regular intervals thereafter, in an attempt to identify the factors behind spiralling divorce rates. Using this data, Dominian identified three separate phases to a married relationship: the crucial first five years, during which some 30 to 40 per cent of all divorces take place; the middle decades, during which couples must juggle commitments to immediate family with commitments to work and their ageing parents; and the final decades, when one half of a couple is often left to cope with the death of the other.

Yet Dominian came to feel disillusioned with the ability of counselling to resolve long-standing marital discord, since by the time most couples arrived at One Plus One the issues that had led to their unhappiness were already too deeply entrenched. From the mid-1990s he began to call for an approach that focused on the prevention of relationship breakdown, rather than belated attempts at a cure. In the future, he argued, couples would need to be prepared for marriage, and given tools to develop the “companionate” love that arises from intimate coexistence.

It was a love that had been markedly lacking in Dominian’s early life. He was born Jacob Dominian in Athens on August 25 1929, to a Catholic father and Greek Orthodox mother, and attended the Lycée Léonin, one of the city’s oldest independent schools, before moving with his family to India at the age of 12. His father, elder brother and sister were all distant figures throughout his childhood, and the relationship with his mother was often under strain. “Nowadays, she would have been a business magnate, but in those days she took her frustrations out on me,” he later recalled. “She was a very self-centred person.”

Yet it was from his mother that he inherited his keen sense of ambition, and after National Service he went up to read Medicine at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, gaining his Master’s degree from Exeter College, Oxford. He met his future wife, Edith, at a 1955 meeting of the Union of Catholic Students in Worcester, and they married later that year.

Having attended the Maudsley Hospital in London to complete his psychiatric training, Dominian became a consultant physician to the Central Middlesex Hospital in 1965, where he remained for the next two decades. He was appointed MBE in 1994 for his services to marriage counselling.

In all he published more than 30 books, including The Definitive Guide to What Makes a Marriage Work (1995), and One Like Us: A Psychological Interpretation of Jesus (1998), which employed modern psychoanalytic theories to explore Christ’s childhood development.

Applying psychiatry’s diagnostic criteria to himself, Dominian identified his own personality type as neurotic — “but then,” he added cheerfully, “neurotics can be fascinating to live with”.

Dr Jack Dominian’s wife predeceased him in 2005, shortly after the couple had celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. They had four daughters.

Dr Jack Dominian, born August 25 1929, died August 10 2014


Dark clouds over Rotherham: those in positions of authority in the town who failed to act on child s

Fears about race relations have been mentioned as a possible reason why those in charge failed to act to stop the horrific sexual abuse of children in Rotherham (Failures led to sexual abuse of 1,400 children, 27 August).

This may be so but other issues must be considered too. The first is the problems that stem from our first-past-the-post system in local government elections, which, exacerbated by the cabinet system of patronage of the leader, results in never-ending party fiefdoms that breed complacency, cronyism and a blurring of the roles of senior officers and elected members.

Second, there is what the scandal shows about attitudes towards women in our society. In Rotherham, what happened was implicitly seen as the fault of the victims. This echoes the arguments of rapists that it was their victim’s fault because of the way she behaved or dressed or the type of woman she was.

There is much current talk about British values. Decency and fair play are often cited. But until the exploitation of people is no longer acceptable, whoever they are and in whatever circumstances, such values will remain a distant pipe dream.
Jenny Budden
Exmouth, Devon

• The intransigence of Shaun Wright as elected police and crime commissioner highlights one of the serious defects in making these posts directly elected, to which those of us opposed to the reform drew attention at the time (May joins calls for police and crime commissioner to resign, 28 August). Had the elected South Yorkshire police authority continued, its chair could have been removed by a vote of the members of the authority. Even better, if we still had the metropolitan county councils, abolished by the Thatcher government in 1986, the chair of the police committee would have been an appointment of the whole council.

Such collective responsibility is paradoxically more democratic than the direct election of a single chief executive and certainly less dangerous, as the appalling Rotherham example demonstrates.
Michael Meadowcroft

• Some say they believed the scale of child sex abuse in Rotherham was exaggerated. A total of 1,400 cases does indeed seem barely credible. Yet even had the true figure been a tenth of this, would not 140 cases have been sufficient to warrant vigorous action? Many who were in positions of authority claim they were not told. At best this indicates that they were unapproachable and uninterested. Given how little use they were in public office, should they not now go?

Some were afraid, but in extreme situations we may require courage of those charged with defending the public. Is fear of being called a racist an adequate excuse for dereliction of duty? This is not an occasion for applying collective blame to one ethnic group. But it is an occasion to blame those who applied collective immunity to one ethnic group and who did so for reasons of electoral advantage.

The police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright,must not be the only one held responsible. This was not the 1960s, when, we are now told, sex abuse was considered normal. It is in very recent and supposedly enlightened times. We should be seeing prosecutions, resignations, sackings and forfeiture of pension rights. Some of those who can’t be prised out must never see another pay rise or promotion.
John Riseley
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

• While the ethnicity of alleged perpetrators in the child exploitation scandal in Rotherham and other parts of the country may be relevant, there are other factors that should be examined.

During the 1970s I worked in an inner-city social services team in West Yorkshire and over a period of time we came across evidence of the exploitation and attempted exploitation of children and young persons within the care system and known to the local authority. The perpetrators at the time were, almost entirely, white British males predominantly employed in the night-time economy – taxi companies, late-opening take-aways, and clubs and pubs that turned a blind eye to underage drinkers.

In many instances it was the particular work situation of the perpetrators which gave them access to vulnerable youngsters. I suspect that, in Rotherham and elsewhere, this issue has direct relevance to understanding and addressing what has happened.
 David Hinchliffe
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

• Professor Alexis Jay’s Rotherham inquiry reveals that a 2002 report was “effectively suppressed” by senior police. This raises the total number of cover-ups and obstructions to bringing child-abusers to justice up to at least 40. The Jillings inquiry was all but boycotted by North Wales police. Detectives have been pulled from cases when they were getting close to VIPs. Both the Waterhouse and Kincora inquiries were given restricted remits, and MPs’ concerns were ignored. The list goes on and on.

I am no conspiracy theorist, but for police, Crown Prosecution Service and assorted civil servants to trip over so many times stretches credulity way past the limit.
Dr Richard Lawson
Winscombe, North Somerset

• The Home Office’s 2002 report onchild sexual exploitation in Rotherham – 12 years ago – identified the problem: but what was done to ensure police and council stayed on the case? It seems most councillors were unaware or failed to intervene. What did officers do to keep them fully informed and seek their leadership? The police appear to have failed large numbers of vulnerable victims. Was this due to a culture of laziness or prejudice? Or was it complicity or worse?
Chris Naylor

• The stories of abused children in Rotherham are heart-breaking. The perpetrators should not get out of jail. There is a problem, however, with the attention given to the perpetrators’ ethnicity. We do not see such attention when sex offenders are white – especially white celebrities like Jimmy Savile. Coverage of abuse of children by Catholic priests does not tar an entire faith group. The coverage of the Rotherham story by some sections of the media will lead to dangerous stereotyping and prejudice.
Mohammed Samaana

• Although it’s (somewhat) reassuring to hear from the Jay report that changes have been introduced over the last four years that mean the Rotherham scandal can’t happen now, justice would be far better served if the cowards who were in positions of authority more than four years ago, who did not do their basic, fundamental duty, were identified and held to account. This report is clear. There is no doubt they were in severe breach. Their reward should not be anonymous retirement on a comfy state pension.
 Kenneth Charman
Wokingham, Berks

• It is quite right to blame the authorities in the Rotherham case for their wilful blindness, and some resignations would certainly be in order.

However, it also seems that too many decades of the nanny state have deprived us of all initiative and responsibility in looking after ourselves. Where were the parents in all this (of victims and perpetrators alike)? Everything from such major horrors down to fixing a pothole in the road is always down to “them”; “they” have to sort it on our behalf.
Nick Wrigley
Boscastle, Cornwall

• On child sexual exploitation, addressing the lack of data-sharing between agencies is less important than you imply (Editorial, 28 August). What really matters is how joint working is organised, as Professor Alexis Jay says in her report on Rotherham. Three of her 15 recommendations relate to the joint child sexual exploitation team.

Data-sharing is not an end in itself, but one requisite for effective joint working. But everybody’s business must not become nobody’s responsibility. As Jay says: “Agencies should commit to introducing a single manager for the multi-agency CSE team. This should be implemented as quickly as possible.”
Dr Alex May

Ed Miliband, Francois Hollande, outside Westminster

Ian Birrell’s rant (Look to France for a vision of life under Ed Miliband, 27 August) shows that Tory Central Office is getting really desperate in its attempts to blacken Ed Miliband. It is economically illiterate to compare France with the UK without once mentioning the crucial difference that France is lumbered with the euro and forced to accommodate Merkel’s anti-growth austerity policies without being able to adjust its interest rates or exchange rate. To pretend that French and British economic experience can be linked because of the personalities of Hollande and Miliband is just so much vacuous propaganda.

It would be far more relevant to point out that, even without the eurozone straitjacket, under Osborne’s austerity policies (very similar to Merkel’s), the UK has had to endure five years of falling living standards (expected to continue till at least 2018), a grossly unbalanced and unsustainable recovery (which the lack of business investment shows no confidence in), household indebtedness rising to nearly £2tn and a trade deficit reaching unprecedented levels. Any objective analysis would note that the ostensible aim of austerity was to cut the deficit, yet that is scarcely falling despite the human price being paid by nearly a million persons being made destitute (sanctioned with loss of all benefits) and more than a million reduced to dependence on food banks.

The real issue is whether the British people want five more years like the last five, or a policy of investment, jobs and growth to replace prolonged austerity.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West

• Ian Birrell usually writes quite well-researched items but this was just full of all the old Tory smears without any analysis. Most notable of these errors is the talk of “the legacy of its [Labour’s] spendthrift time in office”. In 2008, before the bank-induced recession, Britain’s borrowing as a proportion of GDP was the lowest of the developed nations except for Spain, far lower than that of Germany. The problem was not government debt but personal and bank debt that was higher than that of all the other developed countries. This was due to the removal of almost all controls on banks initiated by the Thatcher government and pursued by all governments since. It is time to stop repeating the myth that Tories are good with money and Labour are spendthrift. Several times since the war Tory governments have inherited sound economic situations after Labour had put right previous Tory mishandling of the economy.
Michael McLoughlin
Wallington, Surrey

• From the blatant neoliberalism of Ian Birrell you segue to the more subtle and therefore more dangerous dismissal of a serious alternative to that sclerotic ideology (Hollande’s gamble could be exactly what Europe needs, 28 August). Martin Kettle’s language is a giveaway: the “old left” (older than the right?) espousing “the politics of dreamland, a place that far too many on the left in all countries are too comfortable in”. Language like that exposes him as a promoter of Owen Jones’s establishment, “characterised by institutions and ideas that legitimise and protect the concentration of wealth and power in very few hands”, ie the status quo (G2, 27 August). Larry Elliott (the same day) imagines looking back from 2017: “Parties on the extreme left and right were dismissed as irrelevant. But support for them grew. And grew.” Take heed, Birrell and Kettle.
John Airs

Stanlow oil refinery Ellesmere Port Cheshire UK

There are at least four problems with Chris Huhne’s paean to growth (Comment, 25 August). First, he fails to distinguish between relatively and absolutely decoupling energy use and economic growth. Energy intensity per unit of growth is indeed decreasing, but overall final energy consumption in the UK is increasing – from 148.6m tonnes of oil equivalent in 1988 (Huhne’s preferred date benchmark) to 154.8m toe in 2008 (Decc figures).

Second, he conveniently skates over the outsourcing of UK energy use to other countries. According to the US Energy Information Administration, global energy demand will increase from 524 quadrillion British thermal units in 2010 to 820 quadrillion Btu in 2040 – a 30-year increase of 56%.

Third, energy is not the only limit we have to contend with; research by the Stockholm Resilience Centre suggests we have exceeded, or are on course to exceed, safe levels relating to the nitrogen cycle, biodiversity, climate change, ocean acidification, freshwater use, land system change, aerosol loading and chemical pollution.

Fourth, he erroneously equates growth with wellbeing. According to the Office for National Statistics, GDP per person has grown by a factor of 3.5 since 1955, allowing for inflation. Yet economists David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald write that reported levels of happiness in the UK in the unprecedented years of prosperity from the 70s to the 90s were practically flat. The Green House thinktank will shortly be publishing a major inquiry into post-growth politics. There we conclude that growth is indeed an “enemy of the planet” – and of its people.
Professor Andrew Dobson
Spire, Keele University

• A new form of quantitative easing to fund green activity would strengthen the economy not only of the UK but also of the rest of Europe, were it to be introduced continent-wide. This approach would be preferable to the proposed “helicopter money” solution (Report, 25 August), whereby newly printed money is showered indiscriminately on the majority of EU inhabitants. This would suck in more imports rather than paying for the kind of labour-intensive, green infrastructure programme that could help provide every community in Europe with a sustainable local economy.
Colin Hines
Convenor, Green New Deal Group

Malorie Blackman, children's laureate: subjected to abuse on Twitter. Photograph: Sean Smith

There is a sad connection between Alison Flood’s report on the racist abuse heaped on children’s laureate Malorie Blackman (Racists cannot silence me – children’s laureate, 27 August) and the opening of Little House, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoir, quoted in Flood’s report on its publication 80 years on (26 August). Writing beautifully, Wilder nevertheless embeds the colonial myth of empty land: “It was lonesome and so still with the stars shining down on the great, flat land where no one lived.” Yet people had lived there. The young Laura grows up in a white community where “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”.

Sky News’s misrepresentation of Malorie Blackman’s words about the stark lack of diversity in children’s books has a long, painful history. The virulent racist responses to her on Twitter show how deeply that history remains ingrained. What does the “market god” – that now largely rules the children’s book world – have to say?
Beverley Naidoo

One Man Two Guvnors at the National Theatre in 2011.

The case made by Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons (Letters, 27 August), for work for detainees is perfectly cogent and would, I suspect, receive near-universal support. The issue that provokes concern is the way G4S and Serco might extract fiscal benefit from the services provided by detainees. It is probable that these firms would have bid for their contracts assuming payment for these services would be made at the minimum wage or higher. I suspect it is fanciful to assume that these paragons of venality would not reap the subsequent bounty but instead pass it up as a windfall from the taxpayer.
Dr Andrew Peacock
Heriot Watt University

• Michael Billington describes a hand movement of the comic Sid Field as the ancestor of a gag in One Man, Two Guvnors (A Book That Changed Me, 28 August). As Freddie Davies’s autobiography, Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy, reveals, however, Field’s mannerisms were borrowed in their turn from Davies’s grandfather Jack Herbert, a comedian to whom Field was straight man in the 1920s. If Field’s influence does indeed live on, perhaps now is the time to give credit to the man who taught him.
Anthony Teague
Co-writer, Funny Bones

• Miriam Taylor (Letters, 28 August) mentions the attraction of Scotland’s summer bank holiday. In fact, most Scottish holidays are regional rather than national, so that we do not suffer traffic jams caused by having the whole country on the road simultaneously.
Alasdair Drysdale
Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

• When I worked in Customs and Excise in Aberdeen in the 1970s I was asked by someone from HQ in London if I could “pop out” to get some information from the Shetland office (Letters, 26 August). And when staff in Shetland had to give the location of their nearest railway station on travel claims, they quite truthfully put Stavanger.
Ian Arnott

• “Does no one say ‘groovy, daddio’ any more?” (Letters, 28 August). Only we hep cats, baby, only we hep cats.
Chris Trotter


It’s time to stop the nonsense about the excuse in Rotherham being “the fear of being accused of racism”. In the first place, Pakistani girls were also being abused. In the second place, it is racist to apply different and lower standards to a minority ethnic community than the white English community.

It was, then, not about political correctness gone mad or the failures of a multicultural society (Edward Thomas, letter, 28 August). It was about extreme sexism on the part of all those who viewed the girls as prostitutes instead of victims.

Merry Cross



Is there any evidence that the authorities would have acted differently if the perpetrators had been white? It seems that they would have had different conversations to engineer different excuses, but would that have changed their actions?

The race angle is a red herring, designed to distract us from a pervasive victim-blaming culture that runs through all communities, including white ones.

Samantha Chung



I do not seek to comment upon the individuals whose neglect allowed the shocking abuse in Rotherham, but to raise the question of how great a part the decades of domination of Rotherham by a single political party played in allowing the scandal to continue for so long.

Under one-party control, too often “Buggins’ turn” operates and more active individuals of that same party are held back or denied the opportunity to serve as councillors. It also engenders a tendency to “not rock the boat”. In contrast, a change of political control can act as a fresh breeze, invigorating both councillors and council employees. The threat of losing a seat can enliven councillors, while council staff are aware of the pressures that a strong opposition can bring. Equally the opposition, spurred on by the prospect of power, are likely to pursue a whiff of scandal – even if only for political gain.

Why were there no whistleblowers in Rotherham? With 1,400 cases of abuse? Surely one person at least ought to have raised and pursued the issue with council officers or councillors. What was (is?) wrong with the political culture in Rotherham that let the abuse continue for so long?

Brian Jones



Worst result is a close result

I believe there could be a bad public reaction to a very narrow majority in the Scottish vote.

If there is a clear majority either way it will be accepted by all. But it is likely that the majority will be vary narrow one way or the other. In this event, I foresee problems as people become resentful at “losing their birthright” or “being dragged into a foreign country against their will”. Civil disturbances and even “racist” attacks could follow.

Have the civil authorities on either side of the border taken this calamitous possibility into account and made plans to cope with the situation? Or will they just “muddle through” as usual?

Peter Milner



If England and Scotland were already separate independent countries, would people from either country be clamouring for a union between the two nations? I find it difficult to imagine such a demand arising.

Andrew Davis

Weybridge, Surrey

No one is consulting me about the Scottish referendum, nor the millions like me. We don’t have a vote and yet we care about it very much.

My mother was a proud Scot from the Highlands, and she married an Englishman. I enjoy hybrid vigour. It so happens that I live in England, but I am not English or Scottish.

This is not about who scores the best points in a TV debate. It is about who we are. I don’t want an independent Scotland or an independent England. I am British, and I want to remain a citizen of the United Kingdom, with all the pride that belonging to that union implies.

Elizabeth Morison Proudman



A question that seems neither to have been asked of nor answered by Alistair Darling, and which may greatly influence voting intentions: if Scotland does vote for independence, would he stand for the new Scottish Parliament or would he find an English, Welsh or Northern Ireland seat and seek to continue his Westminster career?

John Hein


This is a war between Sunni and Shia

I find it difficult to agree with your editorial of 22 August, in which you conclude that “what we are dealing with is an explicit war against America and the West”.

On the contrary, I see the Islamic State war as an escalation of the ongoing struggle between Sunni and Shia. Atrocities against Christians, Yazidis, and the odd British or American hostage are guaranteed to provoke Western governments into violent reaction, but what is the point of bombing Isis, when Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states in the Middle East appear to condone their activities?

I have not seen any reports of these states condemning the horrors Isis is perpetrating in the name of Sunni “purity”. Perhaps a better solution would be for the West to use diplomatic channels, either direct or through the United Nations, to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to cut off military and financial aid to Isis.

John Read

Saffron Walden, Essex


Workers motivated by public spirit

I feel sorry for Ian Jones (letter, 20 August). He seems to live in a world where the only reason to perform better is competition with a rival company.

The most effective driver to improve is self-respect and a desire to do one’s best for others. When I worked at John Lewis in the 1970s, I rarely met members of the public. I moved furniture, prepared deliveries etc. However the ethos of my fellow workers ensured that I always tried to do my best, which also made the job more enjoyable.

As a teacher, I wanted to do better because I was affecting the futures of hundreds of young people, not in order to get better results than others.

Now, in retirement, I work as a volunteer for a charity, putting in many hours a week. We all try to make our project as successful as possible. If other such charities also do well, that is cause for celebration, not an inquest as to how to better them.

Is it not screamingly obvious that people will work much better if they have a stake in the enterprise? Being told that one is a “human resource”, there to maximise profits and grind rivals into the dust, leads to an uninterested workforce that is only there to get paid in order to live.

Rod Auton

Middle Handley, Derbyshire


Why hospital parking charges go up

I find it ironic that Jeremy Hunt is calling for a reduction in hospital car parking charges.

The Government is starving NHS trusts of funding and so they are looking to make ends meet by bringing in extra income from other sources. Unfortunately many of these sources are the ones which impact on visitors and staff.

Hunt and this government refused to honour the NHS independent pay review boards’ recommendation that NHS staff be given a  1 per cent pay rise. Instead a limited number of health-care staff are getting a small increase, but one which will be removed in 2016, taking them back down to the same level of wages as they earned in 2013.

Demoralised staff are likely to leave, many opting for agency work. The costs of agency staff are huge in comparison with properly employed NHS workers, so it means the hospital has to look for other ways to bring in vital revenue. Hence a hike in car parking fees.

If the Government would honour the pay award with a consolidated 1 per cent, and pay a living wage for the 35,000 NHS staff who are paid under it, they might find their retention levels improved, they spent less on agency staff and didn’t need to get money in from increasing car parking charges.

Jo Rust

King’s Lynn, Norfolk


A poor ‘victory’ for Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the seven-week conflict in Gaza ended in “victory”. Presumably he is not taking into account the fact that thousands of people around the world will now be looking a lot closer at the country of origin on the products they buy.

Sam Semoff



Power vacuum in Brussels

From 1 September, companies will be prohibited from manufacturing or importing any vacuum cleaner with a motor above 1,600 watts. The European Commission is guilty of blowing yet another blast of hot air.

Colin Bower



Those who turned a blind eye to years of abuse must now face hard questions

Sir, Andrew Norfolk’s piece on the harrowing Rotherham child abuse report (“Officials hid evidence for a decade”, Aug 27) was a salutary lesson in the post-Leveson era.

The excoriating conclusions of Professor Alexis Jay’s study laid bare a grim history of how the council and South Yorkshire police “disbelieved, suppressed or ignored” clear warning signals in 2002, 2003 and 2006.

Mr Norfolk played a key role in exposing the child sex abuse and the apathy and cynical cover-up surrounding it in Rotherham. Shockingly, even when the 2010 murder of Laura Wilson, a teenage victim of grooming, forced a serious case review, the council’s safeguarding children’s board published only a heavily redacted version concealing the ethnicity of those who had groomed Laura Wilson and that they had known about her abuse for several years.

Next Rotherham council threatened a High Court injunction in a bid to gag The Times and then called in South Yorkshire’s disgraced police force, and external lawyers, to identify the source of Andrew Norfolk’s well-informed “leaks”.

As an exercise in self-serving cynicism and an arrogant attempt to pervert the public interest, it rivals another grim chapter involving South Yorkshire police, the Hillsborough disaster scandal.

It is surprising that South Yorkshire’s PCC, Shaun Wright, formerly the council’s cabinet chief for child protection, has not stepped down from his PCC post.

Andrew Norfolk’s dedicated role in helping to uncover this scandal — despite the efforts to silence him — is a sharp riposte to Lord Justice Leveson’s view that “whistleblowers” should complain in-house rather than turn to the press.

Paul Connew

(former editor, The Sunday Mirror)

St Albans

Sir, It has been said that officials who are no longer in post cannot be disciplined for failings in the Rotherham scandal. However, there is a common law offence which may yet see some of them in the dock. The offence concerns a failure to act or a failure to properly perform one’s duty while in public office. Such an offence might extend to employees of a council, social services and the police. The offence is rarely used; there is no time limit on prosecution and, in theory, it could attract life imprisonment. What is required is for the CPS, judge and jury to accept that the lack of action amounted to conduct which, if proved, should be punished by a criminal penalty. It seems to me that the senior decision makers who chose not to act have a case to answer.

John E Bailey

(Former Detective Chief Inspector)


Sir, Having just retired after 25 years with Kent Police, nothing about the Rotherham scandal surprises me. I spent years scraping drunk and drugged youngsters off the streets, and locking them up, because a cell was the safest place for them.

At every level, adults who had to deal with such nasty, violent desperately sad children were always secretly delighted when they disappeared — life was so much easier without them. I include parents who couldn’t wait to wash their hands of their responsibilities and dump them on the state.

Seriously, what did education authorities think would happen to all the disruptive, disadvantaged children they excluded? Many were stopped from going to school at 11, some before that. No one bothered to provide any alternative because, frankly, staff were delighted to see the back of them.

What did councils expect when they allowed private enterprise to run children’s services? I met landlords leasing houses to social services at inflated rents, and then being paid thousands a month to look after a vulnerable child. It was a shame the people doing the caring were poorly paid, poorly trained, if at all, because the child certainly did not benefit from this arrangement. When things went wrong — as they always did — staff were instructed to call the police. Social services were complicit, and happy to leave children in cells for days — they were quite put out when told by an angry custody sergeant that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice has something to say about unlawful detention.

And what about the authors of all this misfortune — the parents? They are swanning around carefree, and richer with one less mouth to feed, yet their bad parenting created the aggressive, damaged individuals so desperate for love and care that they self-medicate with drink and drugs and cry when they leave the police station because it is the only place they are warm, clean and safe.

Parents who allow their children to end up in the care of the state must be made to pay. Home owners should have a charge put on their property and those in council accommodation should be moved to smaller properties and pay a levy with their rent.

And the police — well, senior managers were always glad to see a 13-year-old cautioned for throwing a cup at a care worker: violent crime detected, biological data captured, very little paperwork and very low cost. Win-win for all — except for the 13-year-old, whose criminal record, courtesy of social services, would be retained for 100 years. We should all be ashamed of ourselves.

Bev Kenward

Hythe, Kent

Sir, Why are the parents of the abused girls not being blamed for neglect, as well as the social workers and police? Not all the children were in care.

Madeline Macdonald

Knebworth, Herts

Sir, An allegation of sexual abuse some 30 years ago against Sir Cliff Richard results in a search of his home by South Yorkshire police, complete with a helicopter film of their visit courtesy of the BBC. In Rotherham the same police force and council officers appear to have abetted the sexual exploitation of young girls on an industrial scale over 12 years.

The priority must be to help and seek justice for the victims. Second we need an independent review of police and council action and inaction — and real consequences for those people who are shown to have failed in the exercise of their duty. The victims, the community in Rotherham, and the wider public deserve nothing less.

D Yaw

London SW15

It is not marching drill that makes soldiers brave, it is regimental loyalty

Sir, I read your report “Marching in sync ‘boosts bravery’” (Aug 27) with amusement and incredulity. After 37 years in The Parachute Regiment, I can say it was axiomatic that our officers and toms (soldiers) would be “brave” in conflict. My commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel “H” Jones VC OBE, exemplified this on Darwin Hill on May 28, 1982, with his life.

I am bemused by the scientific proof that we were made “brave” through marching on the drill square. For my part I loathed this complete waste of my time at Sandhurst and much regret that this exercise appears still to dominate all other considerations at the Royal Military Academy. “Marching” never took place in any of our recent conflicts — it was simply part of the job in front of local dignitaries afterwards.

I wonder why such investigations do not seek the opinions of those of us who have been on operations in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. We never needed “marching” to foster “togetherness” — it was a consequence of intense regimental loyalty.

David Benest

(Colonel ret’d)

Pewsey, Wilts

Phasing out the car windscreen tax disc could pose problems for Britons driving overseas

Sir, You report that car windscreen tax discs are to be phased out (Aug 26). No thought seems to have been given to those of us who drive in continental Europe. I cannot imagine a French gendarme contacting his office to get them to contact the DVLA to ascertain the tax status of the vehicle — he is more likely to arrest the driver or make an on-the-spot fine. Would the DVLA indemnify the motorist?

There must be a printable receipt for the tax, which one may fix to the windscreen . . . like a tax disc.

Dr JD Baines

Penpillick, Cornwall

Sir, The police and other agencies may be able to check the tax status of a vehicle, but how can a third-party driver check that the vehicle they are about to drive is taxed? Having to inquire online is impractical if one is hiring or test-driving a vehicle or if one’s boss instructs one to drive a particular vehicle — we don’t always have a computer handy or mobile reception. I can see many innocent individuals being caught out by this. To drive without tax is a road traffic offence that also invalidates the vehicle’s insurance.

Ian Spencer

Cherry Burton, East Riding

A former head of the Muslim Council of Britain asserts his opposition to Islamic extremists

Sir, You attack me for my role in the campaign against the Satanic Verses in the 1980s (leader, Aug 26). I reject any notion that I led “an inflammatory and threatening campaign” against the author of that book. The campaign was for the withdrawal of the profane book that had hurt millions of followers of a faith who had little recourse to defend themselves. It was conducted in a civil manner, despite worldwide outrage and the fatwa of the late Ayatollah.

I yield to no one in my opposition to extremism. I have been physically attacked by the very real extremists whom you mention. It is most unfortunate that you now cast me in the same light as these extremists.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie

New Malden, Surrey

The language of signs conveys messages above and beyond the call of duty, sometimes …

Sir, I was being shown around the maternity unit of a hospital in Ontario and when I came to the labour ward the sign on its doors read “Push! Push!”

Dr Owen Gallagher

Glenavy, Co Antrim

Sir, Some years ago I delivered babies at a maternity home whose delivery ward was on the second floor. Patients well on in labour were carried up to it in a lift. As they entered the lift they could read a big sign above it with a reminder of a famous song: “You should have danced all night”.

Dr Michael Bott

Kirkella, E Yorks


A still from a recruitment video, which features several Britons, calling for jihadists in Iraq and Syria

6:58AM BST 28 Aug 2014


SIR – In order to curb the rising anti-Western frenzy among radicalised young Muslims living in Britain, we must impose a blanket embargo on all media imagery depicting fanatics with their weaponry and victims, as this only feeds their egos and risks glamorising the cause to other extremists.

Moreover, the Government urgently needs to seek emergency powers to revoke the British citizenship of and immediately deport anyone guilty of anti-British or terrorist actions here or abroad.

Lance Warrington
Northleach, Gloucestershire

SIR – The Americans never seem to learn that they cannot destroy an insurgency by bombing. Their Vietnam war proved that.

R S Hoe
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – David Blair (Comment, August 25) and the Foreign Secretary (report, August 22) are wrong in their assessment of Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

As he is the most ecumenical and popular of the Arab dictators, we will have to come to an accommodation with him, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

Michael Heaton
Warminster, Wiltshire

Ticked off tourists

SIR – I am a great admirer of what Boris Johnson has done for London, but he should have been at Tower Hill Tube station last week to see the effect of ticket office closures.

I and thousands of others, mostly disgruntled tourists, had been to see the poppies at the Tower of London. With both ticket windows at Tower Hill closed, there was chaos.

As tourism contributes billions of pounds to our economy each year, surely it makes financial sense to have at least one human being available to resolve ticketing and travel problems.

Chris Platford
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

Waste of water

SIR – The online ALS ice bucket challenge to raise money for motor neurone disease (report, August 26), and similar campaigns, may support worthwhile causes, but they are also a form of bullying. People either want to donate or they don’t; they shouldn’t be harassed into doing it.

Sheila Corbishley
Fenham, Northumberland

How to help families

SIR – The Government has decided that struggling families need to be helped (report, August 19). The Prime Minister suggested that counselling and services providing advice on how to cope would help families stay together.

The Home Start charity has been providing exactly this type of practical support for many years. Home Start volunteers (remember the Big Society?) visit families every week.

Yet, the Loughton branch of Home Start has had to close this week because of budget cuts. If this charity received the support it needed, it would continue to make a great difference to distressed parents with young children.

David Conway
Theydon Bois, Essex

Better together

SIR – I am the former chief executive of a UK-wide conservation charity, the Scottish division of which decided in the early Eighties that it would do better as an independent Scottish charity.

The honeymoon lasted for a few years, but once the Scottish charity’s ability to raise funds locally was exhausted, the cost of duplicated resources reduced its effectiveness and financial stability, so that it was no longer sustainable. It has since reamalgamated as part of the UK-wide organisation.

Robert Morley
Frilsham, Berkshire

SIR – While refitting at Rosyth dockyard in 1959, HMS Gambia assumed the title of “Scotland’s own cruiser”. The attempt to man the ship with an all-Scottish crew never succeeded, but the image was maintained during the subsequent time at sea, when entering and leaving harbour was marked by a piper playing from the top of the forward gun turret.

The ship was fortunate to have one member of the company who could play the pipes – an Englishman.

Mike Jackson

Departure tax

SIR – Your report (“Families pay £1.9bn to fly abroad”, August 22), and the letter from Messrs Herring and Isaby, remind us that Britain’s Air Passenger Duty, or “departure tax”, is the highest in the world.

At the same time, air travellers are often subject to unacceptable delays when returning to our shores.

Is it not possible to devise some simple – preferably computer-free – system by which sufferers from such delays could reclaim part or all of their departure tax, depending on how long it took them to clear passport control?

John Carter
Shortlands, Kent

Across the board

SIR – May I, on behalf of the four Messrs A Cross in the Manchester telephone directory (and many more across Britain) reassure Julian Down (Letters, August 26) that he is not alone in his daily appearance in The Daily Telegraph crossword.

Dr A W Taylor
Oldham, Lancashire

Scaling Kate’s Heights

SIR – After seeing Kate Bush’s photograph on the front of every national daily yesterday morning, and watching Newsnight’s fawning, uncritical review of her first night, may I suggest Ed Miliband’s PR people speak to her PR people.

The incredible case of the misuse of language

Jonathan L Kelly
Yatton, Somerset

SIR – With respect to Ian Thomas (Letters, August 27), I think the most over-used word in the English language is not extraordinary but incredible – nearly always used in relation to something known to have occurred.

John Blakey
Heaton Moor, Lancashire

SIR – Lessons have been learnt appears to have taken on the meaning of sorry. Both acknowledge fault or shortcoming in the past but only sorry expresses real regret.

John Mash
Cobham, Surrey

SIR – What has happened to me? The word is hardly used today – it’s always myself. Perhaps people think it sounds posher.

Richard A Cook

SIR – I used to enjoy it when they broadcasted programmes on the telly. Nowadays, they just seem to air content.

Roger Dowling
Lymm, Cheshire

SIR – The most over-used and ugly word in today’s parlance is amazing. In the past 10 days, in a variety of television programmes, I have counted 81 instances.

Robin Nonhebel
Swanage, Dorset

SIR – My previous word processor would sometimes display: “It looks like you are writing a letter”, which used to jar terribly. Now this usage of like is almost universal, both orally and in writing.

David Vaudrey
Doynton, Gloucestershire

SIR – The word cheerio is not in decline at Home Park football ground. Plymouth Argyle supporters at the Devonport end sing “Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio” lustily to the tune of Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue when one of the opposition gets a red card.

Kit Carson
Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Peace and quiet: not all gym members want a pumping soundtrack while pumping iron Photo: Getty Images

6:59AM BST 28 Aug 2014


SIR – James Barr’s point about obtrusive noise in cinemas (Letters, August 6) also applies to private gyms.

I am committed to staying fit, but I also suffer from tinnitus. Even industrial ear protectors could not block out the audio system in the gym I attended for 20 years.

I was told that reducing the volume would be inconsiderate to users who needed a disco atmosphere for motivation.

Perhaps the company will face compensation claims in the future from staff members who are exposed to levels of noise that the local department of health and safety might well deem unacceptable working conditions.

Bel Roberts
Caerphilly, Glamorgan

Rotherham: more than 1,400 children were sexually abused over a 16-year period by gangs of paedophiles Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 28 Aug 2014


SIR – I listened to the Radio 4 interview with some hapless Rotherham councillor yesterday morning and felt a mixture of disgust at the scandal and anger with the BBC as the interviewer bayed for the councillor’s head.

It is the council staff and police involved who should all be summarily sacked. But following the Sharon Shoesmith fiasco, nobody will lose their job unless they go voluntarily.

Until public sector staff can be fired for incompetence, vindictive people will make a councillor with no authority the whipping boy. For a refreshing change, try punishing the guilty.

Richard Billington
Gomshall, Surrey

SIR – What sort of world is it where a police force can work in concert with the BBC to inform the public on national television that they may potentially be charging a famous person prior to telling him, while at the same time turning a blind eye to hundreds of rapes and other abuses committed over a decade because they are scared of being regarded as racist?

Neil Mitchenal
London SW1

SIR – Both the tragic situation in Rotherham and Emma Barnett’s article on sex education reveal the dangers our children face from sexual predators and the internet.

In this context, it is most important to underline the role of parents and of other responsible adults, such as teachers, in knowing the whereabouts of children in their charge and what they are getting up to. Sex education must take place in schools in close consultation with parents; we must get out of the habit of usurping the rightful role of parents in bringing up their children.

I cannot, however, agree with Ms Barnett’s call to emphasise the recreational side of sex and “safe” sex. It is precisely this that has landed us in the parlous situation we now face. It is not just, as she says, that children should be taught that sex should take place “ideally inside the confines of a loving relationship” but that sex is the physical expression of love and commitment. Without these, it is neither safe nor really enjoyable.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
London W1

SIR – To describe the perpetrators of these disgusting crimes as “Asian” is a bit sweeping. It is also true that the Holocaust was perpetrated by “Europeans”, which would include you and me. Billions of Asians are condemned when you funk the obvious truth that almost all of these outrages were committed by Pakistanis.

Antony Stanley Clark
Mosterton, Dorset

SIR – What price the Macpherson report?

Peter Morle
Southwick, West Sussex

Irish Times:

Sir, – I have been following the correspondence on these pages and have been keeping track of anti-abortion comment in print, on radio and television on our latest national disgrace.

The word I keep seeing come up is “care”. I would like to know what exactly these people mean by “care”?

What kind of care do these people think should have been given to the young woman in the remaining 14 weeks of her pregnancy?

The only “care” I can think of that would result in a favourable outcome in the eyes of these people is forcibly restraining and force-feeding this woman to term. Or perhaps they mean exclusively psychiatric care?

Some people seem to believe that psychiatrists have the supernatural power to change women’s minds about such an important and private question as whether or not they wish to give birth. A few encouraging words and a pat on the back and, hey presto, they’ll see the error of their ways. And yet these same people came out of the woodwork during the debate last year to tell us that psychiatrists cannot adequately assess suicide risk, something they are trained to do and do so every week.

It seems what psychiatrists can or cannot do depends on what will serve the anti-abortion line of argument.

We need to challenge these euphemistic misnomers, fudges and hollow catchphrases at every turn. Yes, they are couched in a language of care and compassion, but strip that phoney veneer from them and they merely serve to justify the infantilisation, brutalisation and humiliation of women.

I certainly hope I never end up in their “care”. – Yours, etc,


Lally Road,


Dublin 10.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole lists the 14 bodies that established the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign in January 1981 (“Why Ireland never faced up to the issue of abortion”, Opinion & Analysis, August 26th). He labels 10 of them as “sectarian” on the basis that they were “explicitly and exclusively Catholic”. By this definition to be a member of any body which is explicitly Catholic is to be “sectarian”! My local parish is explicitly and exclusively Catholic. Does this make me “sectarian” in the eyes of your illustrious columnist? – Yours, etc,


Brackenbush Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It is disappointing to see some of the vitriol directed at Fintan O’Toole for daring to speak his opinion and point out some inconvenient facts. I was just into voting age when the 1983 amendment went to the ballot box. Even then, in my youthful inexperience, I remember thinking what a peculiar beast Irish politics was, as we had just had three national elections in less than two years. I remember the venom on the streets with tales of campaigners being spat on for just daring to encourage a No vote.

I asked my father about the reason behind such a referendum when abortion was already illegal. He explained to me, with some irony, that it wasn’t illegal enough and some people wanted to ensure, no matter what the majority wanted in the future, that no government could ever make it legal even if it tried.

Given recent events in 2014, it seems that his words are as true now as they were back in the political mess that was 1983. – Yours, etc,



Bandon, Co Cork.

Sir, – Brendan Ó Cathaoir contends (“Civil War left in its wake a less caring society”, Opinion & Analysis, August 27th) that mother and baby homes were “symptoms of a traumatised society” after the Civil War.

If this is the case, how does he explain the fact that mother and baby homes first appeared in England in 1891 under the guidance of the Salvation Army in London?

I would certainly agree that the Civil War was a traumatic event in Irish history but I doubt very much that it had any significant impact on social policy in Britain.

Attitudes to children born outside marriage and their mothers were much the same in the UK, US and Ireland during the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

Poverty may well have made their treatment worse here in Ireland, but Ireland was hardly unique in providing a cold welcome to children born outside of wedlock during the period in question. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Brendan Ó Cathaoir is certainly right to identify the Civil War as contributing to a national trauma that affected generations of Irish men and women, and the church as having a particularly devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable and marginalised within Irish society.

The Treaty split and Civil War that soon followed it were indeed devastating, and resulted in many of the institutional and interpersonal loyalties that had been formed and reinforced in the preceding years being shattered or realigned, not always to the benefit of all Irish citizens, as Dr Ó Cathaoir identifies.

But it is important to recognise that republicanism was not the sole doctrine of the Irish people, and that a variety of traumas – some imposed by separatist nationalists – were playing out in different ways in Ireland at the time.

The isolation felt by many Irish civil servants is worth noting, as are the experiences of Irish veterans of the first World War who, in a different way, struggled to find their place in the new State.

Overall, I am thankful to have read the article and the online comments that ensued.

Trauma in Ireland is an unfortunately fruitful, if under-examined, theme in Irish history. – Yours, etc,



Idaho State University,

Yale Street,



A chara, – Agreeing to fly the “gay flag” from a Garda station sets a nightmare precedent. Now every cult, group or association will rightly demand that their own particular flag or emblem should receive the same support and be flown from Garda stations all over Ireland.

An Garda Síochána, like every other State service, must serve Irish citizens of every colour, creed and sexual persuasion without fear or favour. Granting special status to any one group because of its sexuality is entirely discriminatory and anti-democratic. If any flag needs to be flown from any State building, it should be our national flag, the Tricolour.

Some may think they’ve gained a big victory with this issue but paradoxically they’ve attacked the very thing they yearn for – equality. – Is mise,


Shantalla Drive,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – I agree with John Barnewell (August 28th) at his concern at the rainbow flag of gay pride being unfurled at a Limerick Garda station. In my view this exercise, although well intentioned, is seriously misguided.

The consensual nature of policing in the Republic is determined by those citizens in the village square who look to the Garda as custodians of the public peace, who go about their business in a professional manner, influenced by nothing but the desire to protect the well being of the populace.

This perception by society could well be fractured if it sees the agents of law and order supporting a specific interest group, however honourable. – Yours, etc,


Lonsdale Road,

Formby, Liverpool.

Sir, – The editorial “Mismanaging expectations” (August 27th) claims that “the cut in public sector pay in 2009, via the public service pension levy, was offset for many by continued payment of increments”.

The reference to “the cut” strongly implies that it was the only reduction; in fact there have been four pay cuts since 2009.

These were: the pension levy referred to as “the cut”; a pay cut across all grades, even the lowest paid, in 2010; an explicit pay cut for those earning above €65,000 in 2013; a cut in the hourly rate for all grades, again in 2013, by increasing working hours with no compensation. That this is a pay cut is clearly proven by a corresponding fall in overtime rates.

The reference to increments offsetting pay cuts “for many” needs to be backed up by figures. What percentage of public sector workers were in receipt of increments over this period?

The editorial goes on to complain that the “the remarkable pension benefit for retirees – the pay parity link . . . has been retained”.

This link has not been retained for new civil servants. They join a new pension scheme whose payments will be based on career average earnings, not final salary, and where pension increases will be linked to consumer price index (CPI) changes.

Furthermore pay parity for existing pensioners has been used only to implement pension cuts since 2010 (the first for all pensions over €12,000, the second on pensions over €32,500), and the Government has publicly made clear its intention to link existing pensions to the CPI, as well and eliminate pay parity for all public sector pensioners. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I have not often in recent years so heartily applauded The Irish Times. However your editorial “Mismanaging expectations” travels very much in the right direction for me and I am sure many others.

The deplorable bidding by politicians for our votes is deeply symptomatic of a dysfunctional political class that treats us like children asking for more. We need vision and ideas.

Why do we not, for example, look at domestic Irish employers and ask in a serious way, “How can we help you to create and save jobs and stay in Ireland?”

Every serious Irish success, like it or not, is being driven by tax breaks from our corporation tax rate, to capital gains tax breaks given to most property investors, including owner-occupiers.

But, curiously, our own entrepreneurial and SME job-creating class has been systematically hammered by ever heavier taxation and regulation and a nearly indiscriminate blitz of onerous new measures.

Luckily for us, we are being saved from disaster by our multinational “friends”. But how long will they remain “friends” is an issue for many.

Just ask Barack Obama. – Yours, etc,


The Hill,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – John Mulligan (August 23rd) claims that “the banks of the Barrow are about 10 metres wide, sometimes wider, and providing a narrow, grit-surfaced two metre-wide strip on one bank will still leave lots of room for people who prefer to walk on grass”.

The bank of the Barrow on which the towpath runs is not 10 metres wide. It is about four to five metres wide before one is either falling into a drain on one side, or the river on the other. When you allow for the verges full of wild flowers and grasses on either side of the path, you are left with two to three metres of walking and cycling space. Contrary to what your correspondent claims, there will not be lots of room for people who want to walk on grass if a two metre unbound hard surface strip is put down.

More important, the present grassy sod surface is beautiful and the proposed gritty surface is ugly. The existing grassy towpath is shared by walkers, joggers, cyclists and anglers alike. It is unique, a long-distance grassy path, and should be marketed as the glorious wild way that it is.

In an earlier letter (August 21st), Mr Mulligan referred to the towpath as “derelict”. I have spent most of this lovely summer walking and picnicking on the towpath. Waterways Ireland keep it well. I have yet to find the dereliction he speaks of. – Yours, etc,



Save the Barrow Line,

St Mullins Road,


Co Carlow.

Sir, – The Road Safety Authority has noted the doubling of child road fatalities (“Warning over road safety as children return to school”, August 28th). They include a long list of actions to protect young pedestrians and cyclists. So far, so good.

Sadly, not a single one of these recommendation is addressed at drivers. The clear implication is that child pedestrians and cyclists and their parents are solely responsible for road safety. The chief executive even suggests that children should get “streetwise”.

This message follows the theme of previous Irish road safety campaigns, warning the public that walking and cycling are inherently dangerous and that anyone engaging in such risky activity should dress up like a Christmas tree. The result is to frighten people back into cars. Because inactivity is a greater threat to public health than sudden accident, this approach is harmful.

Would it be too much to ask the RSA to run a campaign reminding drivers to look out for those few schoolchildren who walk or cycle and to perhaps join them by getting out of their cars once in a while? – Yours, etc,


Montpelier Place,

Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Barra Ó Seaghdha (August 28th) has a point when he says that Home Rule, as passed 100 years ago, was a “scheme of provincial autonomy” within the United Kingdom. As viewed by its opponents at the time, however, it was of much more significance.

Nearly half a million unionists signed a covenant to “use all means necessary” to stop it being implemented. Unionists threatened to set up a “provisional” government in Belfast if a parliament was set up in Dublin with even very limited powers of administration for the whole island.

Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Conservative opposition, and some of his parliamentary colleagues went so far as committing treason by expressly backing threats of civil war against home rule.

Whether it was, as Redmond described it, a “final settlement”, its opponents did not see it as such.

Whatever its historical significance, the reality is that whether the passage of the Home Rule Act should be denigrated, remembered, analysed, commemorated or celebrated at the present time is very much down to present political viewpoints. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (“Belgium gave Irish men reason to enlist and fight”, Rite & Reason, August 26th) argues that it was “morally right” to defend Belgium’s neutrality in the first World War.

At that time the global economy was controlled by the European powers whose economies were served by colonies (ie the rest of the world).

Belgium itself was also part of this system with the rule of Leopold II, killing millions in the Congo.

Britain and Germany dominated global trade, and Germany was challenging the existing hierarchy of this European colonial system.

The European powers fought to preserve their vast overseas empires and indeed the system of empires itself. In this context it is difficult to see how any of the European powers engaging in the first World War could have been “morally right” to do so.

This system survived the first World War. Its end came about in Newfoundland in August 1941 when Roosevelt told Churchill that America would not support its continuation after the second World War.

The 1941 Atlantic Charter set the Allies’ objectives for the postwar world, which led to the postwar independence of European colonies, the move towards free trade and the current global economic system. – Yours, etc,


Cap Estate,

St Lucia.

Sir, – Further to Sarah Waldron’s “Trainers are the new work uniform” (August 27th), while the wearing of designer trainers in certain creative work environments may now be virtually de rigueur, I don’t think Patricia O’Riordan’s suggestion (August 28th) of banning men’s ties from the office would be a runner. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Is Patricia O’Riordan telling tie-lovers to get knotted? – Yours, etc,


Elm Mount,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – Two teams may moan, and journalists may find a reason to write articles about the venue, but Limerick will greet you all, so just get on with it.

Limerick has been hosting national and international sporting events for decades, so you’re all welcome. Just enjoy the game and the weekend in the Riverside City, the sporting capital of the country. – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick.

Irish Independent:

The reconstruction of Gaza is a priority for the international community. Education is central to reconstruction. Irish third-level institutions can make an important contribution to this process.

May I commend to each of them, and to the Education Minister, the setting up of Gaza scholarships?

These scholarships, especially in the fields of medicine and nursing, horticulture and engineering, would make an important contribution to the rebuilding of Gaza’s infrastructure where it matters most, by investing in young people.

By taking the lead within the EU in establishing these scholarships, Ireland would serve as an example, encouraging other countries to follow.

The initiative has the capacity to make an important contribution to the reconstruction of Gaza. For Ireland, the funding requirement would be minimal. Nor would it be complicated. The initiative simply needs to be supported by the president of each institution and taken to the governing body, ideally with the expressed endorsement of the minister working with the authorities in Gaza.

By taking a collective initiative, coordinated by the HEA with the Association of University Presidents, the impact of the initiative, and its visibility across the EU, would be maximised.

What changes lives, changes economies. The Gaza scholarships would do both.

Professor Ray Kinsella

Ashford , Co Wicklow

Changing the Garda culture

Tom Brady reports (Irish Independent, August 28) that a new training strategy for 100 recruits to An Garda Siochana is intended to purge the force of a culture of groupthink.

The term ‘groupthink’ was created in the 1970s by Iriving Janis, a Yale university professor, who concluded that it occurs when groups make faulty decisions because group pressure leads to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment”.

Groupthink, for example, was deployed for centuries by the immensely wealthy Protestant Ascendancy to reinforce claims to social superiority over the impoverished Catholic majority population as the Ascendancy squatted on large tracts of confiscated, rich arable land and Catholic rents paid to them accounted for 25pcof Ireland’s modest GDP.

But new Garda recruits will be more influenced in practice by what they discern throughout An Garda Siochana and the example of the senior Garda leadership than what they learn in the classroom in Templemore, a facility that has been mothballed for five years.

Should the flying of a rainbow flag over a garda station in Limerick, coinciding with a gay pride parade, be construed as a product of groupthink, faddism or a genuine expression of parity? Surely the ultimate expression of esteem in a republic, by a strong and confident national police service, would be to fly the national flag in pristine condition over Garda premises on special occasions.

Such a gesture would remove An Garda Siochana from allegations of partisanship, or an expectation to lend their prestige and reputation to a myriad of lobby groups and political activists when these are in celebration or campaign mode.

The starting point for fundamental culture change is strong leadership with acute vision. The route to real transformation will not be shortened by empty gestures.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin

Medics treated Dad as their own

Three months ago, my 64-year-old father was diagnosed with cancer. On Sunday, August 17, my father left this world after a courageous battle against a raging cancer throughout his body. My dad suffered night and day all the way through.

I’m writing to you with a broken heart, but in a world in which we hear stories of how our health service has failed so many, I wanted to praise the amazing workers of Tullamore Regional Hospital – Dr Kyran Bolger and his team, Margaret Claffey and all the amazing nurses of Tullamore’s Oncology Unit and so many others. Dad was sick for 12 weeks and we spent 10 of those weeks living in the hospital.

The hospital became our home and it was the warmth and love shown to our dad over the hardest weeks of our lives that leaves our broken hearts warmer than they should be. Dad suffered so much in those 12 weeks, but the one thing we as a family have tried to focus on is the love, passion and care the Oncology Unit gave Dad. He had never been to a doctor or left his farm in 64 years, but from the day we walked into that hospital until the day we walked out without him, the staff treated him like their own father, and for that we could never repay these wonderful people.

The Coghlan family

Broadford, Co Kildare

Haughey’s good works

If Paddy O’Brien (Letters, Irish Independent, August 28) had any true appreciation of CJ Haughey’s time in politics, he would see that he too “did the State some service”.

However, many of his welcome political directives in the area of welfare and care of older folk are now being rowed back on, which leads citizens to lament the destruction of his good work.

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork

Ashes to ashes

Recent suggestions about the possibility of another ash cloud is perhaps a case of an ash arís ?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Ice Bucket clips a linguist’s dream

Regarding the current ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ phenomenon, when you think about it, at no other time in history have so many Irish people been simultaneously recorded saying pretty much the same thing – it’s a future linguistics scholar’s dream!

If all the existing Irish Ice Bucket recordings were to be voluntarily uploaded to a database, complete with details of the place of origin of the individual involved, it would be a unique snapshot of Irish accents (of most age groups) at a particular point in time.

Now there’s a project just waiting to happen! When will so many Irish people ever record themselves in such a short space of time again?

Professor Salvador Ryan

St Patrick’s College

Maynooth, Co Kildare

E-cigarette policy is all hot air

As a seasoned smoker whose lung capacity has greatly improved thanks to e-cigarettes, I am disappointed that the WHO now wants proof of a negative (that they do not harm).

We already know inhalation of sulphurous and other gases is bad for us. To ensure coherence of policy, will it now regulate flatulence to avoid passive inhalation? It could start by prohibiting entry to public places within four hours of eating boiled eggs.

John F Jordan

Brussels, Belgium

Fishing failures and the Famine

My wife and I were touring the west of Ireland last week and stopped at the museum in Ballyferriter, near Dingle, Co Kerry.

It was a very beautiful museum with many wonderful items on display concerning the history of the area and the Irish Famine. However it was two short words – “fishing failed” – that made me curious. How could it be that these two words seemed to be given as the reason for the awful famine in the west of Ireland? Surely fishing could not have failed all around the coasts of Ireland?

Tommy Shields

Banbridge, Co Down

Irish Independent


August 28, 2014

28 August 2014 Relapse

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I go to the bank and the Co Op

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, no tea and her back pain has flared up!


Baroness Philippine de Rothschild – obituary

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild was an actress who abandoned a career on the stage to become chatelaine of one of France’s finest wine houses

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild Photo: EPA

6:43PM BST 27 Aug 2014


Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who has died aged 80, was a matriarch of the wealthy family of bankers and winemakers and chatelaine of one of the finest wine houses in France.

A former actress, Philippine de Rothschild and her children — Camille, Philippe and Julien — owned three of the great winemaking chateaux in the Medoc region: Château Clerc-Milon, Château d’Armailhac and, most famously, Château Mouton Rothschild.

She joined the family wine business in the 1970s when her father, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, called her back from her stage career to join him — shortly after he had succeeded in raising the ratings of Château Mouton Rothschild from second tier to premier. After a rapid grounding in the essentials of business and finance, she helped to organise the first exhibition of the chateau’s famous “artist labels” (from 1945, every bottle of Mouton Rothschild has carried a picture of a painting by a famous artist); and when her father died in 1988 she took over as head of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA.

Known to all as “the Baroness”, she expanded the business, adding a Petit Mouton wine in the 1990s and developing partnerships with the Chilean winery Concha y Toro and the Napa Valley vineyard Opus One, which her father had started with the vintner Robert Mondavi. In 1998 she bought a 250-acre estate in Limoux, in the Languedoc region, renaming it Domaine de Baron’arques. Under her leadership the volume of wine sales doubled.

She continued the tradition, begun by her father, of commissioning well-known artists to design labels for Mouton-Rothschild vintages (for a fee of 10 cases of selected Mouton), a job which sometimes proved more difficult than might be supposed. The Prince of Wales obliged with a watercolour for the 2004 vintage — of pine trees in the south of France — to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale: “He said, ‘Let me send you one of my awful watercolours,’” she recalled. “They arrived. They weren’t awful.” But in 1975 Andy Warhol ignored strict instructions that the illustration was to be horizontal and sent three vertical collage portraits of Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The image had to be turned on its side to fit, so that it appeared that the baron was lying down.

In 1993 American customers objected to a painting of a naked young girl by the Swiss artist Balthus that graced that year’s premier grand cru de Pauillac Château Mouton-Rothschild. The Baroness, who had waxed lyrical about the picture’s sensuality as hinting at “some secret promise of undiscovered pleasure”, was flummoxed by such transatlantic prudery: “Very respectable names on the West Coast… said I was doing kiddie porn, which I think is a little bit much,” she told an interviewer. Bowing to the demands of political correctness, she ordered that the labels on more than 30,000 bottles destined for the United States be ripped off to be replaced by a bland alternative. But she reflected that the controversy had helped sales, since collectors wanted both labels.

Philippine de Rothschild in 1961, posing in a maid’s uniform for her role in a play by Marivaux at the Comedie Francaise (GETTY)

Philippine Mathilde Camille de Rothschild was born on November 22 1933 in Paris. She was distinguished from the rest of the Rothschild clan by the fact that she was not Jewish. Her mother, Elisabeth Pelletier de Chambure (“tall, dark, beautiful, rather superficial and not at all maternal”, according to her daughter), was a Catholic aristocrat who, at the time of her daughter’s birth, was not married to Philippine’s father Philippe, but to Jonkheer Marc de Becker-Rémy, a Belgian nobleman. After a bitter legal battle the Becker-Rémys divorced in 1934. Philippine’s parents then married. “I don’t particularly like the Catholic Church,” Philippine said later, “but that is what I am.”

During the Second World War, Philippe de Rothschild was imprisoned by the Vichy government, but escaped to London and later joined de Gaulle. Her mother, however, refused to leave Paris, assuming that her Catholicism would trump the surname Rothschild in the eyes of the Nazis. She was mistaken: in 1944, when her daughter was 10, she was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Ravensbruck, where she became the only known member of the Rothschild family to die in a concentration camp.

Philippine reckoned that she owed her own survival to an “unknown German” officer who had a daughter of her age in Germany and decided not to send her with her mother. Though the pair had not been close, Philippine having been raised by nannies and sent to boarding school when she was seven, her mother’s death affected her profoundly: “It gave me a violent approach to life for at least 10 years after she died. I remember feeling that I had to fight my way through, that nothing was going to be easy,” she told an interviewer. “I was very defensive, very wild, anti everything. It was only when I started having affairs with men, sometimes quite a bit older than me, that I regained a sort of softness.”

Philippine had always wanted to be an actress and, after leaving school aged 16, took to the stage, as Philippine Pascal, with the Comédie Française, where she met and married a fellow actor, Jacques Sereys.

Philippine de Rothschild at her wedding to the actor Jacques Sereys (GETTY)

Though she later gave up her stage career to help her father run the family wine business, her theatrical training stood her in good stead, her showmanship and charm helping her to promote her wines throughout the world and in her dealings with businessmen. These she kept to a bare minimum, for, as she admitted: “I will get on much better with a journalist or a writer than I will with a man who deals with numbers and wears flash clothes… I have discovered that you can do business without living with business people.”

Philippine de Rothschild was a generous benefactress of charities and an avid collector of everything from houses and land to sculpture, tapestries and antiques. She had little interest in fashion, buying most of her clothes from chain stores, though she admitted to a liking for leopard-skin tights, of which she got regular supplies from the managing director of the family wine business in London, after spotting a pair in the window of a Soho sex shop .

Philippine de Rothschild was appointed an Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 2007.

Her marriage to Jacques Sereys was dissolved. She is survived by her second husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, their son, and a son and daughter of her first marriage.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, born November 22 1933, died August 23 2014


ISIS rebel militant soldiers on the frontline

I am a British-born Jew, with immigrant ancestry. I will shortly be going to Gaza to assist in the humanitarian relief. The suggestion (or even the possibility, however remote) that I may be presumed to be a terrorist with the risk of being stripped of my citizenship is one of great concern to me (Ex-MI6 chief warns against rush to toughen terror laws, 26 August).

What happens if, while I am there with a civilian, our lives are put at risk? If either of us injure or kill the person threatening us, is it suggested I may be tried and imprisoned before losing my citizenship? Does it make any difference that I am a lawyer and going to Gaza on the invitation of an NGO? Which I am. Also, how, in that confused environment, could you possibly know who to trust; and what happens if I want to meet with the “other” side in this bloody conflict?

As I am Jewish, what if I choose to go to Israel and join the army? An option open to every Jew in the diaspora. The only way a distinction could be made would be by reference to the word “terrorist”, namely whether the other country is our ally. Finally, If we have learned one thing from Nelson Mandela, it is that the word “terrorist” simply means you are against the status quo. You cannot be a terrorist one minute and one of the greatest men of peace the next.
Robert Sherman

• So Boris, in his attempt to be the new Tebbit, calls for punitive action against those allegedly fighting in Syria and Iraq. I do not remember such calls from the Tory right in the cases of Mike Hoare (mercenary In Congo), Peter McAleese (Angola) and other white British mercenaries, nor even Mark Thatcher and Simon Mann (convicted of an attempted coup d’état). Perhaps he will call for his strictures to be retrospective also?
Kevin Fitzgerald
Sea Palling, Norfolk

• The Islamic State caliphate finally realises a dream that goes back to the 1920s when the Muslim Brotherhood was established. Syria has been its main target since the 1960s. Assassinations of government figures hardened the Assad regime’s security apparatus and freedom was sacrificed for security. Syria remains resolutely secular and the nation’s disparate minorities continue to support Assad. The Islamists could not overthrow them, even with US weaponry and Saudi finance. Now they have established a base where they can fulfil their dream of an Islamist state. Why not let them have it? Agree new borders with Syria and Iraq to replace the Sykes-Picot lines in the sand, encourage repopulation of the region with fundamentalists and fund relocation of the refugees. The state of Israel was established against a similar background of desperation mixed with terrorist cruelty – existential challenges bring out the worst in people. The west supported the Zionist dream, so why not the Islamist one?
Craig Sams
Hastings, East Sussex

• John Gray (An apocalyptic cult carving a place in the modern world, 26 August) says that “to view Isis as expressing the core of one of the world’s great religious is to endorse Isis’s view of itself, which Islamic religious authorities across the world have rejected”.

I thought the point of the Enlightenment (and the Guardian) was to take nothing on authority but to think for oneself and test one’s theories rationally. Mr Gray, author of Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern, appears to have missed this point. Neither the views of Isis about itself nor the views of “religious authorities” are or should be determinative. I prefer to think for myself and, having read the Qur’an from cover to cover several times, I agree with Isis.
Paul Simmons
East Twickenham, Middlesex

• John Gray’s call for us to learn from our mistakes is hardly a ringing battle cry for western political leaders, although those who pay attention to Paddy Ashdown and Nick Clegg may hear faint echoes of it. Such a stance is probably well nigh impossible for Middle Eastern politicians.

As a Christian, I find it perfectly proper to challenge Muslims on a variety of issues with “please learn from our failures, ancient and modern”. Who’ll find the words for the political equivalent of that one?
Geoff Reid

• Why is the UK not sending much-needed equipment to the PKK, already fighting with the less able, but UK-supported, KRG peshmerga to fight Islamic State, nor delivering any humanitarian aid to Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan, home now to over 1.5 million Syrian internally displaced people, of all ethnicities and religions, 90% women and children?

Time now to lift the terror tag from the PKK and support the Kurds, oppressed by all their host countries since the end of the second world war and the most effective force to defeat the jihadis.
Margaret Owen
Peace in Kurdistan

'Everyone should be able to access public library spaces – the last bastions of free knowledge,' wri

In response to your editorial (Public libraries: Losing the plot, 26 August), the important issue is that all of us, of any age, should read, be it in book form or digital. Everyone should be able to access public library spaces, which are the last bastions of free knowledge. The discarding of trained librarians demeans their worth, but that is the trend we continue to see.

But sometimes a community has the will and determination to not lose their precious library, as can be seen by the history of Friern Barnet Community library; it was a challenge that the community rose to. Even after Barnet council closed it, the campaign carried on with pop-up library days and then occupation thanks to members of Occupy London. With the doors flung open again and thousands of books donated, it took repeated visits to court for the council to eventually hand the library back to local people, who now serve as trustees. And just maybe we are doing what other council-run libraries could take on board, this being that the community sees it as a library, a computer access site and a community space with an ever-changing range of activities.

Not everything is perfect and no one wanted the council-run library to close. However, we now have regular yoga lessons, Pilates, French rhyme time, local history talks, community police surgeries, councillor surgeries, “Any Questions” evenings with a range of panel guests, Socratic dialogue sessions, music evenings, private hire available, longer opening hours than any council-run library, knit-and-natter groups, sight-impaired group, toddler play section, book-signing evenings (including Will Self), strawberry teas, a comprehensive website, regular newsletters and even a couple of wakes following the funerals of local supporters. In short, it is a hub of local activity which the community will never ever give up.
Cllr Pauline Coakey Webb
Trustee, Friern Barnet Community Library

• There would have been a time when one in three children without a book in the house would have demanded an enquiry into deprivation. I hesitate to write this because I love physical books, but does it mean that they do not read at all out of school? I am having to come to terms with electronic reading (it is surely a boon for those with visual impairment), and the library should be at the heart of electronic reading instead of competing with private providers. It should be a requirement that everything published is available digitally and for loan. Norway may be rich, but they don’t have to spend their money on the state library system, they choose to. If Britain is poor, it is becoming poorer for closing one in six public libraries and counting.
Dr Graham Ullathorne

• It was a kindly thought of Doris Lessing to bequeath her books to Zimbabwe (Report, 27 August). Even greater credit if she left money to transport the books there. England is awash with secondhand books, but getting those to the people in Africa who desperately want them will cost a lot more than the commercial value of the books. This is part of the worsening imbalance of wealth between the rich world and the poor world. Mugabe’s millions, stolen from his own poor, have been laundered in “respectable” tax havens, and quite likely helped City bonuses. The rich world needs to have a care for its own safety by showing more “enlightened self-interest”, and considering how the greed of the few affects the poor majority of the world.

As well as their religious motives, are not the jihadists of the Middle East a blowback of anger at the excesses of capitalism? Can we learn in time to restrain the currently unrestrained self-enrichment and evasion of responsibility by the few? Flagrant tax evasion by the rich seems a remote subject, but actually concerns every person in the world.
Jenny Tillyard
Seaford, East Sussex

Richard Attenborough watches Chelsea play Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in 2003. Photograph: Ph

I know as a long-term Guardian reader that you have a problem with my football club, but two whole pages of obituary about perhaps our most famous fan (26 August), and not even one sentence about his relationship with Chelsea FC?

Richard Attenborough trained with the players to improve his physical condition for the role of Pinkie in the film of Brighton Rock. He also served on the board from 1969 to 1982; and he was appointed life vice-president after refusing to sell his shares to property developers in the 1980s, which helped to save the club from oblivion. When the stadium was redesigned in the 1990s, his work ensured proper upgrading of facilities for disabled spectators. Chelsea was a large part of his life, and deserved a mention.
Peter Collins

• Two years after interviewing Richard Attenborough on the tarmac at the old Delhi airport where he was shooting a scene for Gandhi, I was sent by my newspaper to grab some words with him at Heathrow on the morning he returned from Los Angeles with a fistful of Oscars for the film.

As a callow newcomer to Fleet Street I never imagined the world and his wife would also be there, too. I pushed my way through the reporters and photographers to the front of the throng, and as Attenborough came through customs he caught my eye, smiled and said: “Darling, how sweet of you to come and meet me!” as if I was a one-man reception party. He always had the ability to make everyone feel individually special.
Quentin Falk
Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire

• Lord Attenborough’s death in this centenary month of the outbreak of the first world war reminds me of the last occasion I heard the national anthem played in a cinema after a film – Oh! What a Lovely War at the Westcombe Park ABC in London in 1969. It was the first time I felt unable to stand up for it.
Paul A Newman
Winchester, Hampshire

Artificial leg slip

Prosthetic leg: no 'ball and socket' joint here. Photograph: Radius Images/Alamy

Your article about a new method of attaching artificial legs (27 August) twice describes the “traditional” method as a “ball-and-socket joint”. This form of joint, found in the shoulder and hip for example, allows movement in almost all directions.

Following an above-knee amputation, the artificial leg is put on by placing the stump of your leg into the socket of the prosthesis, but balls have nothing to do with it (except insofar as that you have to make sure that only your stump goes into the socket).

In Long John Silver’s day the leg would be all wood, and not articulated, the “peg-leg”. After the Marquess of Anglesey’s leg was blown off at Waterloo – “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” he said to Wellington, who replied: “By God, sir, so you have!’” – he had an articulated leg mostly of leather. Forty years ago, when I was first fitted with one, the leg was metal; now the sockets are plastic and the lower leg carbon fibre.
Richard Humm

Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach, 2002: galleries outside London would welcome the opportunity to sho

My love affair with modern art started 40 years ago with a visit to Sheffield Art Gallery. There a wonderful Frank Auerbach painting taught me more than all the books I had read before. It has been a long-lasting and sustaining relationship.

Jonathan Jones’s suggestion (Awe-inspiring art deserves to stay in London, 27 August) that Lucian Freud’s collection of Auberbach’s work must be left to Tate Modern is insulting as it suggests that the rest of Britain must always travel to London.

Surely we can recognise that other cities would welcome the collection. Curators and administrators in those cities would promote and show the work imaginatively as well.

It would help to redress the culture imbalance that exists, with London scooping up all the goodies. It would also assist in economic regeneration in those cities.

Surely Wakefield, Middlesbrough, Maidstone and other places with vibrant art galleries where local and international artists are represented would all attest to this. Let’s hear it for the hinterlands of the UK.
Steve Gove-Humphries

• So Jonathan Jones thinks “there is no point scattering the Freud collection of Auerbach’s art around museums in Manchester and Southampton and so forth”. His breathtaking Londoncentric arrogance is coupled to a lack of logic.

If the centres of exhibition are to be dictated by an artist’s location or subject matter then surely the case is made to redistribute all great art back to the countries of origin. Should we perhaps start by assembling together the “scattering” of paintings by Picasso, Monet, Manet and Degas in London and shipping them back to France toute de suite?
Richard Hooper
Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire

Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

Mindfulness (or meditation as it’s otherwise know) may bring positive benefits to the individual (Report, 26 August) but better provision for social and participatory arts, especially dancing, would be a better prescription for many. Dancing has demonstrated wellbeing benefits – both physical and mental – and it nurtures participation in civil society that interventions for the individual never will. Dance is both a prevention for ill health and a treatment. Government funding priorities need to be based on overall benefits and not just individual treatment.
Andrew Wood
Oxford Contact Dance

• I played viola on Kate Bush’s last LP, and laughed myself silly at her nonsensical lyrics about snowmen. The obsequious, unquestioning critical acclaim heaped upon this manifestly overrated singer is rather depressing, and summed up by your reviewer (Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo, 27 August) when he describes an audience who “spend the first part of the show clapping everything; no gesture is too insignificant to warrant applause”. Enough said.
Bill Hawkes

• If history is anything to go by, Russia won’t tolerate further eastward encroachment by Nato. Many of us recall Russia’s Cuban missile placement and how the US reacted to it. Why would western leaders imagine Russia will behave differently to a similar threat (Nato plans bases in east Europe to deter Russia, 27 August)?
Ian Lowery
Kensworth, Bedfordshire

• Two sorts of raspberries were on sale in the local supermarket today: “British” (from Wales, decorated with a union flag) and “Scottish” (decorated with a saltire). Is there something we’re not being told (Salmond’s not won yet, 27 August)?
Simon Nicholls

• Perhaps we should join Scotland in moving the summer bank holiday to the start of August? We might have a better chance of decent weather.
Miriam Taylor
Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire

• Awesome? Marvellous? Does no one say “groovy, daddio” any more (Shortcuts, G2, 27 August)?
Allan Jones
Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire


I was the adviser to the Scottish parliamentary inquiry into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in 2013. I’m an Edinburgh University researcher and writer on sexual abuse issues.

The shocking catalogue of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, described with such uncompromising integrity by Alexis Jay, happened mainly because police, social services, and even communities witnessing the grooming “in plain sight” shared the abusers’ view of these vulnerable, throwaway girls: they were wee liars, delinquent, promiscuous – and not worth anyone’s hassle or expense. These girls were often under state “protection” after already suffering abuse or neglect.

Until these attitudes are finally uprooted, CSE scandals will continue throughout the UK.

Could staff who have chosen to work in caring for others please tell us how they could witness children’s trauma, distress and physical injuries, yet still interpret these as signs of consent?

Many professionals in Rotherham appear to have been guilty of allowing serious crimes against children to continue. If so, there ought to be grounds for prosecution. They also appear to have been flouting law and guidance from the early 2000s. Indeed, knowledge had been publicised of Sara Swann’s “boyfriend model” by the late 1990s. Developed through her work in Bradford, this described the exact pattern of ensnaring, total control and violent abuse of young teenage girls by older males.

Official guidance to child protection professionals in 2000 made clear that children in what was then called prostitution should be treated primarily as victims of abuses and as children in need. They should be safeguarded, and coercers prosecuted. Identification of children should always trigger multi-agency procedures to ensure their safety and welfare. Looked-after children were especially vulnerable.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 strengthened the messages of this guidance. It became an offence to cause or incite child prostitution and included the offence “of administrating a substance with the intent of committing a sexual offence”.

Plying victims with drink and drugs is an almost universal feature of CSE. So we also have to ask why the wishes of Parliament and Government were also being ignored for at least a decade.

Sarah Nelson

This year we have had the export of extremism, the Trojan Horse affair in education in Birmingham, and now the horrors of Rotherham. All these have occurred because of the reticence, at best, and the fear, at worst, of treading on the sensibilities of ethnic minorities.

That has been as a direct result of the determination in the past three decades to establish multiculturalism: the notion that all cultures are equal, that there is no such thing as a host-nation culture in which all foreign newcomers have elected to settle and to which they should be prepared to adapt.

It is now surely obvious that the process is an abject failure. It will be a long and uphill task, but the time has clearly come to dismantle the entire concept of the “multicultural society”.

Edward Thomas

Professor Alexis Jay’s report outlining child abuse in Rotherham raises a number of serious questions about our society and the values of individuals who clearly considered the protection of children less important than maintaining a camouflage of political correctness.

Of course resignations may result, but it’s not enough. Perhaps one way to ensure that morality is more likely to win the day in the future is to prosecute those who knew of these crimes and whose function it was to protect the children or uphold the law.

Peter Wrightson
Brent Pelham, Hertfordshire

A spokesperson from the NSPCC commented that there had been “collective blindness” in uncovering the extent of child abuse in Rotherham. A more appropriate phrase might have been “collective disregard and collusion”.

We can be sure that the figure quoted, of more than 1,400, only scratches the surface of this. For every case we know about, there will be countless others, and in many other cities.

Another recent news item, seemingly unconnected, was the call for sex education for seven-year-olds. These children in Rotherham will have experienced “sex education” of the worst possible kind – and the effect that unhealthy relationships can have.

Linda Piggott-Vijeh
Combe St Nicholas, Somerset

A good CV will help you get a job…

I sympathise with the situation Nina Gillespie finds herself in (“Got the degree – now for the job”, 21 August). Increasingly, unpaid internships are replacing what would have been paid, permanent jobs five years ago. But those paid graduate jobs do still exist in abundance, and the frustrations experienced by graduates seeking them are felt in similar measure by employers looking to fill their entry-level vacancies.

This summer I reviewed well over 500 CVs from applicants for the 20 or so graduate positions our fast-growing technology company had on offer.

Just over half of those applicants were in the reject pile within one minute of their submissions being opened. Spelling mistakes, typographical errors, random capitalisation and eclectic font use accounted for the majority.

If our universities are offering careers advice, then starting with how new graduates present themselves to employers way before they reach the interview stage would be a start. If they are already doing this, then I would encourage the students to pay more attention in class.

Rich Mortimer
Head of Talent, Egress Software Technologies
London NW6

…but not if you are  of a certain age

In the Seventies and Eighties I went through my schooling years with every belief that my government would look after its own (after all, we’re the ones who pay the taxes) and provide me with a compatible job.

I left college with an honours degree in biological sciences following my three A-levels and nine O-levels. After two years’ struggle I got a suitable job in cancer research in Oxford where I was very happy.

I helped get many scientific papers published and became a well-respected research institute member over 13 years.

Then the funding fell through and I was made redundant. I was not downhearted at the time, as I thought I would easily get another job in the lab with all my experience.

As a temporary “stopgap” I took up a job as a hospital porter. This was 11 years ago and I am still that porter.

In spite of hundreds of applications made to suitable vacancies (mainly within Oxford University),  I have been unable to secure another position. Now, at 50, I am considered too old.

This has had a negative effect on my children, who are going through school, disillusioned about what they are actually training for.

None of this is my fault. I worked hard to get my qualifications and I worked hard to gain all the work experience in order to compile a fairly impressive CV – but what good is all this? I’ve come to the conclusion that justice, in this country at least, just doesn’t exist.

Tony Bywaters

Corporate tax failure hits world’s poor

The questions raised by your article about the accuracy of Government figures on corporate tax avoidance (“Osborne claims ‘mis-stated’ success of tax crackdown”, 27 August) touch on a wider issue.

The Government has asserted that the UK needs to help the world’s poorest countries fight back against tax avoidance. But this laudable aim has been contradicted by the UK’s actions. Two years ago the Government watered down its so-called Controlled Foreign Company rules – a measure that could cost poor and developing countries billions of pounds a year in lost tax revenue. That is money that could otherwise be spent building schools, hospitals and other public services.

It is time for all political parties to commit to act against the damage to poor countries caused by the UK’s corporate tax regime.

Florence de Vesvrotte
Government Relations Adviser, ActionAid
London EC1

You cannot make tax sexy. HMRC should concentrate on corporations and individual executives who consistently pay less tax than their cleaners, instead of playing cops and robbers with 30 individuals on a “most wanted” list.

Ian McKenzie

A question of too much sport?

Celia Stevens and David Harris (letters, 26 August) complain about how the sports pages cover too much men’s sport and too much football respectively. Perhaps there is just too much sport in The Independent (18 per cent of yesterday’s paper)?

David Stansfield
London E14


Charity fund-raising and the thin line between campaigning and political activism

Sir, Stephen Pollard (Aug 26) suggests that charities’ campaigning is partisan, and that they are not transparent. For centuries charities have spoken out against injustice and suffering. In law, charities have a duty to work to alleviate the problems they tackle, and to try to prevent them arising at all. Charity law reflects this by allowing them to speak out on “political” issues in line with their mission.

The Charity Commission recently proposed requiring charities to declare how much they spend on “political campaigning”. A drive toward greater transparency is good for charities and good for society — and most if not all are working to be highly transparent.

However, the attempt to separate “political” campaigning from their other work is at best illogical. At worst, it panders to an infantilised debate that gives the false impression that campaigning is an optional extra to a charity’s work with beneficiaries.

Charity campaigning may be political but this does not make it partisan. Those in power are entitled to object to what is said, but not to charities’ right to say it. Charities speak for their beneficiaries, never for political parties.

The commission’s proposals must be seen in the context of the government’s Lobbying Act and of other attacks on civil society’s right to speak truth to power. It is no surprise that charity leaders speak out in defence of their beneficiaries. We should be glad of it. Society and our democracy would certainly be poorer if charities were muzzled.

Sir Stephen Bubb

Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations

Sir, This “member of the public” does not expect charities to “stick to their knitting” (“Charities ordered to come clean on campaign activity”, Aug 26). I support charities in their efforts to alleviate suffering and distress and I applaud charities which campaign to bring about changes which might make their work redundant one day.

That ministers are exasperated at being criticised suggests a disturbingly autocratic perspective on the part of some of those elected to serve the nation.

Rosalind Richardson

Bideford, Devon

Sir, I worked in a national medical charity’s head office for several years. I was struck less by the failure to divulge where large sums (more than £20 million per annum) were spent, and more by the culture of spending on administration. The funds used for research into the many forms of medical condition were extremely commendable, helping many people, but spending at the head office building was so wasteful. In the few years I worked there, the 30-plus staff had several complete re-equips of their desktop computers, and complete refurbishment of furniture and carpets, even though the building itself was very modern. There were also about a dozen staff cars, which were updated every three years. Salaries were very reasonable, including a chief executive getting a six-figure salary.

Having witnessed such waste, my wife and I, who had been regular donors to several national charities, ceased giving. We prefer to help local charities, which spend a larger percentage of our donations on the help they give.

Richard Madin

Buxton, Derbyshire

A judge’s views on alcohol, rape and responsibility should not be drowned by politically correct chorus

Sir, Open discussion of rape seems to be impossible. We do not want to return to the days when judges casually dismissed rape claims saying that the victims “asked for it”, but we are in danger of going to the other extreme. Why should Judge Mary Mowat’s completely reasonable and realistic remark (“Rape conviction rate will not go up until women stop binge drinking, says judge”, Aug 27) that it is difficult for a jury to convict if a rape victim is so drunk that she cannot actually remember if she was raped cause such outrage?

It is common sense. Binge-drinking is a curse but no government has ever taken it seriously. It could be stopped quite easily if the will was there. In the past such extreme drunkenness was uncommon among women so they were not so much at risk. As a long-term feminist, I think that the rape charities should be helping women to keep control of their own bodies and welcome Judge Mowat’s remarks, rather than producing the usual Pavlovian response.

Kathryn Dobson


Muslim leader blames UK Muslim extremism on failure of governments to engage with Muslim communities

Sir, You concede (leader, Aug 26) that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a democratic platform of British mosques and Muslim associations, “is no supporter of jihadists”. Our position against extremism and terrorism has always been quite clear, yet now you advocate that we should be ignored because of activities and statements attributed to former officials of the MCB.

You also state that the MCB has extended affiliation to “highly dubious” groups. The MCB is a broad-based organisation, from all traditions of Islam. We do not promote sectarianism by favouring some traditions over others. All of our affiliates are encouraged to seek the common good.

UK governments have failed to tackle extremism. In our view that is partly because governments, and this government in particular, have failed to engage properly with Muslim communities.

Dr Shuja Shafi

Secretary General, MCB

The startling rise in bank card scams and similar crimes requires a sophisticated new response

Sir, For 20 years we have been told that crime is falling but last month ONS quietly published the data to underpin what we’ve suspected all along: the figures routinely underestimate the truth, and that once we include bank and credit card fraud, tax and benefit fraud, ID theft and internet scams, the total of crimes rockets (“Crime fall hides huge rise in bank card fraud”, Aug 26).

We don’t know whether including all forms of fraud for the past 20 years would have negated the year-on-year fall in crime, but we do know that neither the police nor Action Fraud, the agency specifically set up to tackle fraud, can do more than scratch the surface. There are simply nowhere near the resources to match the problem. Investigating fraud is very resource intensive and the result is so often frustrating: expensive trials that fail to reach a verdict; low sentences that fail to deter offenders; victims left with no justice and no compensation.

With the genie now out of the bottle, it is time to find a much more sophisticated response to fraud that is located primarily outside the criminal justice system; based on prevention, regulation and education not arrest, prosecution and (no) convictions.

Dr Sarah Garner

The Police Foundation

The question of Leicester’s most famous son is answered; he was also the city’s legendary father

Sir, I believe King Lear must take the crown as Leicester’s most distinguished native, living or dead.

Michael Cole

Laxfield, Suffolk


Never forget: poppies, doves and a Military Cross to remind kneelers of the world wars

6:57AM BST 27 Aug 2014


SIR – Last November you ran an article in which the writer urged individuals and groups to find ways to commemorate the coming centenary of the start of the First World War.

Your article inspired me to make a kneeler, which I presented to our church, St Mary’s in Chiddingstone, last Sunday.

As 2014 is also the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, my hassock is dedicated to all who served our country in the two world wars. The design includes the British Legion poppy, doves of peace and a Military Cross, which is a reference to the medal awarded in 1944 to my father, Capt John Childs, for his courage while serving with the Special Operations Executive in northern Greece.

Alison Savage
Edenbridge, Kent

Senior Matron Breda Athan demonstrates the procedure when preparing to treat potential patients with Ebola at The Royal Free Hospital in London Photo: Getty Images

6:58AM BST 27 Aug 2014


SIR – News that Britain’s health authorities have brought an Ebola victim, and therefore the virus, into this country is beyond belief.

I thought they were meant to keep these diseases out.

Malcolm Parkin
Kinnesswood, Kinross-shire

SIR – Am I the only one uncomfortable at the different treatment afforded to the recent English victim of Ebola and the Africans stricken with this disease?

It seems that if you are European or American, your fate is in some way deemed more important than if you are African, and perhaps already live in dire conditions.

Let us hope that a cure will soon be found for this dreadful disease so that such a dilemma will not occur again.

Susan Cunliffe
Woodbridge, Suffolk

Prisoners in handcuffs

SIR – Howard Thomas, a former chief probation officer (Letters, August 25) appears to believe the manner in which Max Clifford was escorted to a funeral was designed to humiliate.

During my 10 years in the prison service it was always standard procedure to handcuff prisoners while escorting them to hospital appointments or funerals. Max Clifford was subject to normal practice, however demeaning that may appear.

Lionel Goulder

Third degree from 111

SIR – Like Chris Fairgrieve (Letters, August 23), I was at first irritated by a 111 operator’s lengthy interrogation when I rang, in my case folllowing my wife’s fall in the garden – but a nurse assured me that the paramedic was already on the way.

Indeed, he was administering excellent first aid even before the nurse had ended her questions.

John Goulding
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

A scenic route

SIR – How entertaining travelling on the roads is these days, though it is hardly relaxing. While in the passenger seat on a recent 100-mile journey, I counted two drivers texting: one a lorry driver and one a white van man.

Another lorry driver had what looked like a map spread across his steering wheel. Three cars contained front-seat passengers who had their feet up on the dashboard.

Most perplexing of all were the six discarded shoes on the hard shoulder, ranging from a toddler’s shoe to a stiletto. I now seem to spot lone shoes on every journey, and have made a game of how many I can see in one day. There have been no wellington boots so far.

Maggie Riordan
Lympsham, Somerset

That shallot

SIR – This year I have grown a particularly good crop of shallots.

But last Monday the green tops had completely disappeared, seemingly chopped off by blunt shears with not a trace left behind. No marks on the soil; lettuce, leeks and other vegetables nearby untouched; husband innocent.

Considering that they were growing in a raised concrete bed, around three feet in height, in an almost enclosed courtyard, I am at a loss to explain this mystery.

Margaret Mackley
Salcombe, Devon

Female commissioners

SIR – So now Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, is insisting that several heads of government should nominate female candidates as commissioners in place of their male nominees. He might be heeded more readily if he offered a personal contribution – such as standing down to make way for a female president.

James Croft
Farnborough, Kent

In a league of his own

SIR – The news of Lord Attenborough’s death has moved me, as I used to serve him in the directors’ lounge at Chelsea Football Club, where I was a waitress.

One day he came over to talk to me and said that he’d noticed that I was deaf – I have severe hearing loss in both ears and relied totally on lip reading and people’s mannerisms to anticipate their requirements. Attenborough said that he had arranged for me to see his own hearing specialist in Streatham. Being a bit shy then, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I didn’t have enough money to get there after paying the rent. But his kind offer touched me, and he has had a place in my heart ever since.

Beth Balshaw
Preston, Lancashire

No more!

SIR – I have listened to and enjoyed many of this year’s Prom concerts on the radio, but I do wonder why the soloists in the concertos feel they must play an encore after their performance.

On Sunday I heard a wonderful performance of the Dvorˇák cello concerto, which has a truly glorious ending, after which the only possible thing was silence. Instead, the cellist played a slow movement from a Bach cello suite.

Why? A concerto is not a solo work. It is a conversation between orchestra and solo instrument. The performer was very good and deserved the applause, but that is where it should have ended.

Jennifer Moorhouse
Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Safe spot

SIR – Your list of Britain’s most desirable postcodes contains none from Lincolnshire. Hurrah!

Robert Johnson
Scothern, Lincolnshire

Cheerio to all that: mourning changes in English

SIR – The present participles “standing” and “sitting” should be added to the list of rarely used words, as they have been almost universally (and incorrectly) replaced with the past participles “stood” and “sat”.

Now I must get back to spending the next fortnight tidying my drawers and looking for my old Walkman, after having a couple of slices of marvellous toast and marmalade, if the pussycat doesn’t get to them first. Cheerio.

Jeremy Burton
Shurlock Row, Berkshire

SIR – Why do some contestants on University Challenge “read” a subject while others “study” one? It is not to distinguish one university from another, as in a team from St Peter’s College, Oxford; two contestants “read” while two “studied”.

Lynne Waldron
Woolavington, Somerset

SIR – “Extraordinary” has become the most over-used and abused word in the English language – particularly on television news programmes.

Ian Thomas
Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire

SIR – If “fetch” is falling into disuse, is that because “get” has replaced it?

Not so long ago in Glasgow, an obedient dog would regard “Get!” as a forceful instruction to hasten away and not return.

Ken Stevens
Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

Salmond has refused to say what an independent Scotland’s currency would be if the Chancellor continued to rule out a deal to share sterling Photo: JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

7:00AM BST 27 Aug 2014


SIR – In Monday’s televised debate on Scottish independence, Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, stated very clearly that he wanted to keep the pound sterling, and that sterling was controlled by the Bank of England.

It is a well-known adage that “he who controls the currency controls the country”. Scotland could well find itself in a situation where it is run by the Bank of England without any representation whatsoever in Westminster. This seems a very dangerous and totally undemocratic situation of which the Scots should be made aware before they vote.

It is such a shame that Alistair Darling did not make this point.

John Fagan
Fulmer, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Kevin Cottrell is correct in pointing out that the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the United Kingdom, but fails to mention that they are crown dependencies, for which the UK government of the day has administrative responsibility on the sovereign’s behalf.

This covers areas such as defence and foreign affairs, as well as oversight in conjunction with the Privy Council of the islands’ day-to-day affairs.

The Bank of England is there to provide support should the islands’ finances get into a parlous state. Drawing a comparison between the islands and Scotland, should the referendum vote turn out to be a Yes for independence, would be like comparing chalk and cheese.

Independence should not be confused with that under-the-counter elixir that Mr Salmond is actually peddling, namely interdependence. Independence means the severance of the Act of Union, which would require Scotland to put in the necessary governmental and administrative arrangements, from diplomatic services to car registration and from new passports for all Scots to a new pension ministry – all within the 18 or so months that Alex Salmond envisages.

It is only right for the Government to highlight the risks of independence to the citizens of the United Kingdom – and that includes those north of the border.

Barrie H Bertram
Caton, Lancashire

SIR – Having seen the debate, one cannot help being impressed with Mr Salmond’s passion and obvious sincerity regarding home rule for Scotland.

In view of this, is it safe to assume that, should he win the referendum for Scottish independence, he will allow the Orkney and Shetland islands a similar opportunity to decide their own future?

Dr John Bennett
Newick, East Sussex

SIR – Two Scottish men shouting at each other, and they don’t even have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub.

Malcolm Clark
Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole, writing about the eighth amendment to the Constitution (“Why Ireland never faced up to the issue of abortion”, Opinion & Analysis, August 26th), claims that a number of named organisations were “the bodies that made Ireland unique in the democratic world in having a ban on abortion in its constitution”.

The constitutional amendment was made following a free choice by the people, not by the organisations named in Mr O’Toole’s article. Furthermore, the amendment was not a ban on abortion, it was a declaration that unborn children and their mothers have equal rights to their respective lives. Insofar as there was a ban on abortion, it had existed from 1861, 120 years before the pro-life amendment campaign was founded.

Mr O’Toole also refers to “the ideology that gave us the eighth amendment”, describing it as “utterly dismissive of any qualifications to its absolutist views”. In fact, the amendment provides for recognition of equal right to life for both children and women – hardly reflective of an absolutist dismissal of qualifications. – Yours, etc,


Moanbane Park,


Co Kildare.

Sir, –Fintan O’Toole’s opinion piece is nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the actual debate at hand, and the sentiments expressed in the quotes he has peppered his article with imply a spurious link between today’s pro-life movement and what are quite frankly the somewhat extreme views of some. It is a cheap trick by Mr O’Toole. Extreme views, whether well intentioned or otherwise, can be found on either side of virtually any topic we collectively choose to discuss and debate.

I cannot speak for those referenced in Mr O’Toole’s article but my own view is that the general argument raised by Mr O’Toole and others continually fails to grasp the fact that this debate is best centred in the language of human rights, not necessarily in the language of faith or religion. Those who oppose abortion, whether for reasons of faith or otherwise, do so on the basis that to oppose abortion is to stand up on behalf of those in what can be the most frightening and vulnerable stages of human life, an expectant mother and the baby she is carrying in situations involving a harrowing rape, a devastating medical diagnosis or psychological illness, to give example of some of the many and varied situations that may arise.

Abortion is too easy a solution for the myriad situations that these women face. We owe these women more than what Mr O’Toole and others advocate – a quick-fix solution to ease a nation’s collective guilty conscience. Instead we should be focusing on giving these women and their babies the attentive care and post-partum support they require rather than making them believe that a quick abortion, putting on a good face and a lifetime of silence is the only option. – Yours, etc,


Putland Road,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – In his highly selective history of the foundation of the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign, Fintan O’Toole says that the organisations which comprised this group “are the bodies that made Ireland unique in the democratic world in having a ban on abortion in its constitution.” He gives these groups far too much credit.

The 1983 amendment was not foisted on us by some ultra-religious fifth column, as he suggests. In fact, it was proposed by the democratically elected government of the day and put to a referendum by a majority decision of both houses of the democratically elected Oireachtas. It was then approved by the people, with 841,233 voting in favour, 67 per cent of those who voted.

This is how our democracy works, a fact which Mr O’Toole has overlooked. Does the fact that he doesn’t agree with the decision detract in any way from its legitimacy? – Yours, etc,




Dublin 3.

Sir, – Unable or unwilling to engage with the core issue on abortion, Fintan O’Toole resorts in his latest column to the weakest possible of arguments: denigrating some of the leaders of the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign all of 30 years ago – focusing not as one might expect on their views on the issue itself but on their views on contraception and homosexuality.

His aim appears to be to attempt to discredit the pro-life position by association with selected reactionary comments on unrelated matters.

He describes the pro-life position as “absolutist” but this is an apt description of his own position because he is undeniably absolutist in his exclusion of the perspective of the unborn child. He also omits to mention in his highly selective narrative that it was the people of Ireland who put the clause protecting the unborn into the Constitution, not a handful of individuals. – Yours, etc,


Bayside Boulevard North,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – Having read Fintan O’Toole’s insightful piece on the people and organisations behind the eighth amendment, I cannot help but be struck by how many of the agendas of these groups have failed, and how we as a country have chosen a different path.

I am proud to live in a country where access to contraception is a norm. Where equal rights for gay people are enshrined in our laws and homosexuality is beginning to be fully acknowledged and celebrated. Where all children have a right to be cherished, loved and have access to the same services and facilities regardless of their “legitimacy”. And where I can send my daughter to a school where I hope she will learn to be interested in and accepting of people of all religions and none. I am hopeful too that this country will soon allow women to access their rights over their own bodies, and remove the eight amendment from our Constitution.

I wonder how disappointed the surviving members of that conservative group must feel now. – Yours, etc,


Cromwell’s Lane,


Co Louth.

Sir, – As columnists, commentators and letter-writers charge across the pages of The Irish Times in defence of John Redmond’s achievements, they might pause briefly to note what was said in volume one of the Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs issued by Oxford University Press in 1937. In the words of the author, WK Hancock: “The act which Redmond was willing to accept from Parliament as a ‘final settlement’– Sinn Féin would never allow Redmond to forget that disastrous phrase – was nothing more than a scheme of provincial autonomy. It was a scheme of provincial autonomy so circumscribed that an Australian colony, even sixty or seventy years earlier, would have rejected it with indignation. [He then lists the matters excluded from the competence of the Irish parliament.] Ireland, to all intents and purposes, remained within the British financial system: at the head of six limitations on her fiscal autonomy, customs and excise were listed. Ireland, in the future as in the past, would send representatives to Westminster. The act left intact the framework of the United Kingdom. If this was what home rule meant, home rule – although its excited partisans and opponents could not see it – was in fact another form of unionism.”

It would be unusual, I imagine, for a state to celebrate an initiative that fell so far short of the statehood that was later achieved. Hancock proceeds: “In method and theory also the Irish leaders who were willing to accept this act worked within the framework of the United Kingdom. Their strategy and tactics assumed the validity of the Act of Union. The Irish had accepted English rules.”

John Redmond underlined the point by encouraging his followers to join the British army. He appears by then to have become a sincere imperialist. Some other home rule leaders made a more pragmatic calculation that limited home rule was the best available option for nationalism at the time. Their position was undermined both by the power of unionism and by changes – some gradual, as in changing attitudes to the war; some rapid, as in the aftermath of 1916 – in popular understanding of the war and its political lessons. As Hancock says, the home rule leaders had “accepted the constitutional principle of the sovereignty of [the British] parliament. They staked everything upon this principle. They lost their stake.”

They were of their time and misread the future, as most of us do most of the time. More seriously, they played with war – and human lives – and lost. This is surely something to remember and analyse rather than to celebrate. – Yours, etc,


Martin’s Row,

Chapelizod, Dublin 20.

Sir, – Kudos to Eduardo Porter for his incisive analysis of population and the environment (“Population, education and climate change are close relations”, Health + Family, August 26th). However, his statement that China’s one-child policy “is now widely considered a blatant violation of human rights” left me baffled. No human rights authority has ever determined that countries are forbidden from wading into the issue of family size, given the importance of that issue to the health and safety of the world.

For example, had world average birthrates remained at their 1995 level of 3.04 children per woman, the UN estimated world population would have reached 256 billion people by 2150. While methods of enforcement such as coerced abortions and sterilisations violate human rights, countries are free to implement population policies that gently guide their citizens to make good decisions, in much the way that some states guide their citizens to wear seatbelts and avoid cigarettes.

Given the parade of horrible things such as climate change and food shortages (to say nothing of mass extinction) that Mr Porter admits all come from a world bursting at its seams with people, one wonders why countries are not doing so already. – Yours, etc,


44th Avenue,

San Francisco,


Sir, – A quote attributed to Oscar Wilde says “whenever people agree with me , I always feel I must be wrong”. Patrick Smyth disagreed with comments I made about the downing of the Malaysian plane in eastern Ukraine (“Blaming the EU over Ukraine easy, but misguided”, July 26th, Opinion & Analysis). In my original letter, I suggested the EU and United States must accept ultimate responsibility for this tragedy, since they had created the conditions for the illegal coup in Ukraine. Mr Smyth suggested this was “ the logic of a Provo”. If memory serves me correctly, the Provos attributed each atrocity to “ 800 years of British oppression”. Well the coup in Ukraine occurred just six months ago, so cause and effect can be readily established and the comparison is simply arrant nonsense and indeed odious. Apologists for the western action, such as Mr Smyth, give the impression that the coup was somehow excusable, on the basis that the government of Yanukovych was “deeply unpopular”. Using that criterion, we could excuse coups in virtually every European capital and Washington, at the moment.

The violence we see in eastern Ukraine now is a symptom of the fear and mistrust engendered by the coup, in a country which is deeply divided. In the example of a pedestrian killed by a drunken driver, we attribute the fatality, not to two tonnes of metal colliding with flesh and bone, but rather to the excessive alcohol consumed by the driver. This is the root cause. Easy to understand for most people surely!

I do not intend to bore your readers with details of the American involvement in the coup.

Victoria Nuland, a neocon hawk in the Obama administration, has herself boasted of it and her work in this area is well documented. Also documented are talks she held with the neo-Nazi group, the Svoboda Party, who provided the “muscle” for the coup, forcing Mr Yanukovych to flee for his life. In a taped phone conversation in Kiev, Ms Nuland is heard discussing with the American ambassador essentially just what type of government they should install. I am not greatly concerned with the Americans, however. We know they will always serve their own self-interests and we know also there are hawks in Washington hoping to start a new cold war. A military budget of $1.75 billion each day demands constant conflict and tensions in the world. If they are not there, they must of course be created. I am sure Mr Smyth is familiar with this, given his time in Washington.

It is the debacle that is EU foreign policy that should be our real concern. We are bearing the brunt of Russian sanctions to further the interests of the United States! Whether the EU has been malevolent or just plain stupid is difficult to tell. When Catherine Ashton is involved, naivety can never be entirely ruled out. Whatever the truth of the matter, it should have been plain to EU member states that the economic package offered to Yanukovych would place him in an impossible situation. Damned if he did and damned if he did not. The manner in which Europe, the bastion of democracy, accepted the coup was quite astonishing and disappointing. Let us be clear also, that the current regime in Kiev, linked closely to ultra nationalist groups, has no legitimacy. The post-coup election was held in a state at civil war and with fascist gangs intimidating voters in the west of the country.

For many years Russia has been nervous of the aggressive eastward expansion of the EU and Nato. Just as the United States would not accept missiles in Cuba, so Russia has a perfect right to refuse such an outcome in Ukraine. This is the real American and Nato agenda and the EU seems to be a compliant conspirator. Europe has nothing to gain from a poor relationship with Russia. On the contrary we should be looking east for future strategic alliances which will be necessary to counter the hegemony of the United States and China in the future. To those who believe our future lies with the Americans, just let me mention Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. As our good “friend”, Ms Nuland commented, when told that Europe was reluctant to impose sanctions on Russia, “f*ck Europe”.

That just about says it all. – Yours, etc,


Grange Court,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – I object to the flying of a flag in support of the gay community at a Garda station in Henry Street, Limerick (“Limerick Garda station to fly flag in support of gay pride parade”, August 27th).

You report that those in the station are doing this “as a significant symbol of support for the gay community in Ireland”.

The Garda Síochána should remain even-handed in its approach to society, “neither supporting nor opposing any causes” outside its function of maintaining law and order. – Yours, etc,


Lakelands Close,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I note that a Limerick Garda station is to fly the rainbow flag in support of gay pride. Why do not all Garda stations fly the national flag in support of national pride? Travel in France or the US and you will see national flags flying over police stations. – Yours, etc,


Blackstick Lane,


Co Wexford.

Sir, – Well done to Keith Duggan for his article “GAA has fumbled the ball” (August 26th). The reason given by the GAA for not replaying the game in Croke Park in two weeks is the possibility of the Dublin v Donegal match ending in a draw.

I wonder what are the statistical odds of both All-Ireland semi-finals ending in a draw in the same year, and indeed whether it has ever happened? And even in the event of it happening, surely then make the decision to relocate if needs be.

Meanwhile, Claregalway should be fun around lunchtime next Saturday. – Yours, etc,




Co Mayo.

Sir, – If Dublin was in Mayo’s position, with a play-off against Kerry, you could be damn sure they would have the replay at Croke Park! – Yours, etc,


Mill Street,


Co Mayo.

A chara, – I enjoyed Una Mullally’s piece “Loom bands can help stretch children” (Opinion & Analysis, August 25th). I was introduced to this phenomenon by my nine-year-old daughter Sonja at the start of the summer holidays. As someone who can be described as congenitally clumsy, I was surprised to find how enjoyable playing with these things has become.

Loom bands, like youth, are too precious to be wasted on the young. Come on, all you middle-aged parents, weave and wear your loom bands with pride! – Is mise,



Midlothian, Scotland.

Sir, – I agree with Sarah Waldron that trainers can add a dash of flair to office attire (Trainers are the new work uniform”, August 27th). While we’re at it, let’s ban men’s ties from the office. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

IT is strange to be hearing calls for populist pay rises (‘Time for wage rises to spur economy – Labour minister’, Irish Independent, August 27) when we are still borrowing €6bn this year to balance our current account.

We are insolvent, but for some the answer is to give ourselves a pay rise – how wise is that? The Irish domestic economy is in intensive care. Retail turnover is down by one third since 2006, with many business closures continuing as a result. To recover that 33pc lost, it will take many years, perhaps 10 years at 3pc growth per annum. Then, and only then, can we even consider paying ourselves more.

This Government has already increased the national minimum wage. The National Competitiveness Council says that was an error, and today we continue to erode the nation’s competitiveness position with errant abandon.

Trade union leaders and the Labour Party only pay lip service to the long-term unemployed, as they collectively call for pay rises. They are the vocal minority playing populist tunes that will keep the long-term unemployed on the dole queues. It is time to hold our nerve, let the economy recover fully, and build growth again on a realistic basis.

Ireland’s troubled economy is a long, long way from the luxury of awarding each other pay rises.

Brian Cooper

Old Youghal Road, Cork

Bruton didn’t feel hardship

It is disgraceful that Richard Bruton has shot down the statement by Labour Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash that low to middle-income earners need pay rises to help the economic recovery.

Like so many others, since 2008 I have received no pay increases but have endured a pay cut. Of course, Mr Bruton’s pay packet insulates him from the hardship experienced by the ordinary working people of Ireland, like myself and others who fall within this category.

A five-year-old could work out the equation: low income = no spending power = job losses = high unemployment = a bad economy.

We need politicians like Mr Nash who understand the basics and who are committed to stimulating the economy rather than putting it to death.

David Bradley

Drogheda, Co Louth

Rural towns need big games too

While both Kerry and Mayo supporters may be unhappy with the Limerick venue for the All-Ireland semi-final replay, Jarlath Burns certainly made some valid observations (Irish Independent, August 27) when he said more of these major games should be played outside Croke Park and at venues around the country which may have the adequate facilities.

Firstly, we should take into consideration that many of our rural towns are suffering in the downturn, with many business closing. As Burns correctly states, there is little sense in playing all our games in Croke Park when it is often not full to capacity.

After all, we regularly hear calls for better promotion of tourism in rural Ireland and certainly the GAA is one association equipped to promote it by spreading games nationwide. Killarney certainly welcomed the All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary in 1937.

John Kelly

Killarney, Co Kerry

Replays do happen – it’s sport

John Reid (Irish Independent, Letters, August 27) is wrong on so many counts regarding the Kerry/Mayo All-Ireland semi final replay.

First of all Kerry and Mayo are not to “blame” for the fact that a replay is needed. These are two fantastic football teams who put on a very entertaining and exciting show and in the end, they turned out to be evenly matched on the day.

This is what happens in a lot of sports. Secondly, Mr Reid points to the fact that there were 30,000 empty seats in Croke Park for the match and he goes on to direct his ire towards Kerry and Mayo fans for not travelling.

Perhaps he was elsewhere for the past few weeks and missed the fact that there was a rail stoppage on the day of the match.

Finally, I don’t believe that anybody is “insulting” the Irish-American diaspora with regard to the American football match being held in Croke Park. The suggestion put forward from many quarters was to hold the Kerry/Mayo replay on the weekend following the American football.

I fail to see how it is an “insult” to all those American football fans to hold an All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park a full week after they have had their day out in the GAA’s largest stadium.

Simon O’Connor

Crumlin, Dublin 12

Aviva for the rematch, anyone?

Given the wonderful co-operation between the GAA and the IRFU during the building of the Aviva Stadium, would the IRFU have been prepared to host the Kerry/Mayo replay? Croker certainly came up trumps for the rugby fraternity. I doubt whether the fellas with the hip flasks and sheep-skin coats would let them down in their hour of need.

Ed Toal

Dublin 4

Salutes at state funerals

Why is it that past Fianna Fail Taoisigh and Presidents are honoured with military salutes at their funerals – Jack Lynch’s funeral being an honourable exception.

As we move away from the culture of the gun here, surely in sacred places such as graveyards the firing of guns is an anomaly and contrary to the Christian message?

Brendan Cafferty

Ballina, Mayo

No statue for John Redmond

I wish to take issue with former Taoiseach John Bruton‘s call for a statue to be erected in honour of John Redmond. Redmond’s chief claim to fame is that during that atrocity we call World War I, in which up to 50,000 Irishmen lost their lives, he made himself the British Empire’s top recruiting sergeant in Ireland, urging his countrymen to join up and risk everything for the sum of “two shillings” a day.

Since the start of this year, our media has paraded numerous relatives of those unfortunate soldiers across its pages and TV screens displaying medals as if those men had taken part in some kind of Olympic Games on the killing fields.

No mention of the rats in the trenches “some as big as cats” from gorging on the dead in the dark of night, or the rain and muck, or the officer behind the men holding a gun in his fist ready to shoot any soldier who refused to go “over the top”. The British Empire of that time was constantly at war somewhere in the world.

Paddy O’Brien

Balbriggan, Co Dublin

Applause for John Major

With reference to your reader’s letter on the absence of unionist/loyalist leaders at Albert Reynolds‘s funeral, (Irish Independent, August 27) I would agree that it was conspicuous.

Thankfully, John Major and Theresa Villiers cancelled out that anomaly with their presence and how right it was for Major to receive the spontaneous applause from the assembled mourners.

Ian Hester

Fourmilehouse, Co Roscommon

Irish Independent


August 27, 2014

27 August 2014 Recovery

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I sort out two wine books

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little better today


Lady Berlin – obituary

Lady Berlin was a French amateur golfer who fled the Nazi occupation in her Bentley coupé and later won the heart of the philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin

Aline de Gunzbourg by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1934, taken in Paris shortly before her marriage to André Strauss

Aline de Gunzbourg by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1934, taken in Paris shortly before her marriage to André Strauss

8:14PM BST 26 Aug 2014


Lady Berlin, who has died aged 99 , was for more than four decades the adored and adoring wife of Sir Isaiah Berlin; she was also at different times in her life a principal shareholder and director of the Ritz Hotel in Paris and, as Aline de Gunzbourg and then Aline Strauss, a noted amateur golfer in France and England before the Second World War.

Belonging by birth and by her first marriage to the top echelon of French Jewry, she was already a widow with a young son when, in 1941, she escaped from the France of Hitler and Pétain for the safety of the United States. It was during the sea voyage to America that she was first glimpsed by Isaiah Berlin, then on his way to a British government posting in New York; but their marriage still lay 15 years ahead.

Aline Elisabeth Yvonne de Gunzbourg was born on January 4 1915 in London, the youngest of the four children of Baron Pierre de Gunzbourg and his wife Yvonne. The family lived in Paris, but at an early stage of the First World War had moved temporarily to London, fearful that the French capital would be shelled by German artillery. Aline had an English nanny and then governess, and so grew up speaking both English and French.

Her father Pierre was the son of Baron Horace de Gunzburg , the Russian-Jewish banker and philanthropist who received a barony from the Grand Duke of Hesse, whom he served as honorary consul in St Petersburg. It was Horace’s father, Evzel Gunzburg (son of the prosperous rabbi of Vitebsk), who made the family fortune, eventually founding banks in Kiev, Odessa and St Petersburg.

One of Baron Horace’s many philanthropic enterprises was the celebrated Jewish Encyclopaedia, the compilation of which offered hard-up Jewish writers and scholars the chance to earn some money. It was a work that Isaiah Berlin, as a boy in Russia, read voraciously.

Like other rich Russians of their day, Baron Horace and his parents spent part of every year in Paris, and even elected to be buried there rather than in Russia. Their surname became French in style, with the addition of an “o” after the “b”. Much of their wealth, including the family palace on Konnogvardeiskii Boulevard in the centre of St Petersburg, was lost in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917.

Aline’s mother, Yvonne, was a daughter of Emile Deutsch de la Meurthe, of A Deutsch et Fils, the pioneering family-owned oil refinery and distribution business with operations across France, Spain, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Emile and his brother foresaw the opportunities for their business offered by the development of the internal combustion engine, and while promoting the French motor and aviation industries also introduced the first petrol pumps to France.

Aline grew up in Paris with her three siblings at 54 avenue d’Iéna, next door to the duc de Mouchy. An immense hôtel particulier that had been built by Emile Deutsch de la Meurthe in 1882, No 54 was later divided into four apartments. Emile occupied the first floor, the Gunzbourgs another, Yvonne’s sister Valentine Esmond and her family the third, and Baron Eugène Fould-Springer and his family the fourth.

The Gunzbourg household included two cooks; Alcide, the maitre d’hotel; and footmen, valets, lady’s maids and various other staff, as well as the nurses and governesses. The footmen wore the family’s dark green livery; the children’s prams and the family’s cars were painted in the same dark green, the cars with the Gunzbourg arms displayed on the side. A petrol pump was installed in the hôtel courtyard.

The Gunzbourgs also had a house at Garches, to the west of Paris on the edge of the St Cloud country club golf course, where, aged seven, Aline took up the game. She also played golf during family summer holidays with her Esmond cousins at North Berwick in Scotland, and by her late teens was becoming a well-known figure in the golfing world. In 1932 she was runner-up in the English girls’ championship at Stoke Poges, losing only at the 19th hole to Pauline Doran.

Two years later, in April 1934, she won the French Ladies’ Close Championship (open only to French golfers), the day after she had become engaged to be married. At St Cloud in 1937, now under her married name of Strauss, she again reached the final of this event, but was beaten 4 and 3 by her good friend Mme Renée Lacoste, the mother of the great French golfer Catherine Lacoste.

Aline had married André (“Dédé”) Strauss, son of the banker and Impressionist picture collector Jules Strauss, in Paris in October 1934. They had met through Dédé’s first cousin Antoinette, who was married to Aline’s elder brother Philippe. Following their marriage in the synagogue in the rue de la Victoire, the couple moved into an apartment on the second floor of 54 avenue d’Iéna, where their son Michel was born in September 1936.

As another war loomed, Dédé bought the 17th-century Château de Brécourt in Normandy as a country refuge for his young family. But by then he had been diagnosed with cancer and, although the disease went into remission, he succumbed to it in 1939, four months before the outbreak of war. In his memory Aline gave the Louvre a magnificent 17th-century bronze bust of King Louis XIV as a child.

With the German invasion of France in May 1940, Aline decided to head south. At the wheel of her 1937 black Bentley coupé (with a spare can of petrol in the boot) she drove from Brécourt to Biarritz in a day, but then was unable to obtain the exit visas needed to leave for Spain. In June, with the division of France into Occupied and Unoccupied (Vichy) zones, the Spanish border was closed to all. Brécourt was seized by the Germans.

When Pétain’s Vichy regime published the first of its anti-Jewish edicts in October, Aline was at Cannes with her parents and other family members. Having resolved that they must all leave for America, she managed to obtain visas from the American consulate in Nice and, with difficulty, exit visas from the Vichy authorities. She and her little boy then made their way by train to Lisbon and thence to New York, to be followed later by her parents and others.

New York was then filling up with refugees from France, among them Baron Robert de Rothschild and his daughter Cécile. Aline and Cécile played golf together on Long Island, and it was at a house there, in 1942, that Aline was introduced to Isaiah Berlin. She made more of an impression on him than he did on her: she could not follow what he said and thought him rather unprepossessing. He made no greater impression when they met again at a party in New York.

Then, in 1943, Aline met Hans Halban, a nuclear physicist who had escaped from France in 1940. Not long afterwards they were married and went to live in Montreal, where Hans was director of an atomic research laboratory. They were to have two sons, Peter and Philippe. In 1946 they moved to England, where Halban had been appointed to a post at Oxford. They settled at Headington House, and Isaiah Berlin became a regular guest and family friend.

The Halbans’ marriage was not wholly happy, and Aline liked Isaiah because he made her laugh. When Isaiah sailed for America in 1949, to go to Harvard, Aline happened again to be on the same ship, now on the way to visit her widowed mother in New York. During the voyage (two days longer than usual because the ship ran aground off Cherbourg) they became inseparable friends, but no more than that.

In 1952 Aline drove Isaiah to the summer music festival at Aix-en-Provence. The next year she visited him often in his rooms at All Souls as she helped him with a French translation of his essay The Hedgehog and the Fox. “I like her very much,” Isaiah wrote to a friend. “She is beautifully bred and altogether charming: and lives in a curiously detached way in Oxford, to which she does not belong in any sense and which she reacts to in a half sleepwalking fashion.”

Isaiah’s father, Mendel Berlin, died in December 1953, and a month or two later Isaiah asked Aline to give him a lift up to London, where he had to sort out some of his father’s affairs. During the drive up to London, Isaiah declared his feelings for Aline and touched her hand. Although Aline said nothing, she felt moved — and she remembered thinking: “Damn.” She began to see Isaiah, but then at Easter 1954, when Isaiah was staying with his mother at Nice, he received a letter from Aline breaking off relations. Hans Halban had overheard a long telephone conversation she had had with Isaiah, and was now threatening to divorce her and to take the children. Isaiah was so distressed that he took to his bed for two days.

Back in Oxford, he received a telephone call from an anguished Aline inviting him to drinks at Headington House. Halban, himself in some anguish, had decided that they should all try to remain on good terms. Soon, though, Aline and Isaiah were seeing each other again. Towards the end of 1954 Hans Halban accepted an offer from the French government to head a nuclear physics laboratory in Paris; Aline said she could not accompany him.

They agreed to a formal separation, and a fortnight later Isaiah Berlin proposed to Aline in the Oxford botanical garden. When her mother, who had met, and liked, Isaiah, heard that Aline was to marry him, she exclaimed: “Mais il est inépousable!” But once Aline’s divorce from Hans Halban had been finalised, they were married, on February 7 1956, at Hampstead Synagogue. Isaiah was knighted the next year.

Isaiah and Aline Berlin in 1955

During more than 40 years of marriage thereafter, the Berlins did everything they could together, in Oxford, where Isaiah became the founding president of Wolfson College, and further afield. With their base at Headington House, they also had a flat in London (a set of rooms in Albany) and they built a house at Paraggi, above Porto Fino on the Ligurian coast of Italy. They had a very extensive circle of friends and an active social life.

There were annual visits to New York and Jerusalem, and wherever they went as the years went by they were feted at receptions and dinners. They attended countless concerts, operas and music festivals, seldom missing a season at Glyndebourne, Salzburg or Pesaro. They attended as many of their friend Alfred Brendel’s concerts as they could. Isaiah would describe his recreations as “my wife and listening to music”.

Aline Berlin’s connection with the Ritz Hotel in Paris came about through her father’s first cousin Baron Jacques de Gunzbourg, who was one of the hotel’s founders. When Jacques’s son Nicky, the socialite, decided to dispose of the Ritz shares he had inherited, Aline’s father bought them and gave them to her. Her fellow shareholders and directors included Charles Ritz and Stavros Niarchos. Eventually the hotel was sold to Mohamed Fayed.

Sir Isaiah died in 1997. Two years later Lady Berlin travelled to Latvia, when the country’s authorities installed a commemorative plaque on Isaiah’s childhood home in Riga. As a trustee of the Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust she was instrumental in the continuing publication of Sir Isaiah’s work and letters, a process which gave her the greatest pleasure.

A frail, elegant figure, always immaculately dressed, Lady Berlin continued to travel, and to keep up a busy social life well into her eighties. She tended to avoid large gatherings, but would think nothing of a day-trip to Paris. Latterly, as her activities became restricted by increasing ill health, she none the less continued to receive a steady stream of devoted family members and friends.

Lady Berlin is survived by her three sons.

Lady Berlin, born January 4 1915, died August 25 2014


Alex Salmond

I am one of a generation of Scots who understand politics as power. What is happening right now is that people all over Scotland are talking to each other about what is in the best interests of themselves, their children and their neighbours. As Monday’s debate evidenced, ‘“ordinary” people are holding politicians to account (Salmond emerges on top in tough TV debate, 26 August). The phenomenon is nothing short of sensational and yet the Guardian sticks to the same old analysis, deploying a frame of reference about the nature of a politics that most of the public have already rejected, one way or another.

In Scotland people are realising that democracy is not an empty word, it is a state of mind – we can do this if we want to. The old elites, including those in the media, must move aside to let different voices have their say.
Ann Jamieson

• As expected, Alex Salmond won the stairhead rammy that passed for a second debate on points. But other referendums show that the side supporting the status quo does not need to win the debate – it just needs to show that a vote for change involves risks and uncertainties.

The first minister’s improved performance will not turn public opinion around and it looks beyond doubt that Scotland will vote against a break-up of the United Kingdom. There were just too many intractable problems – pensions, jobs, public spending, tax-base shrinkage, oil, green energy, black-outs, defence and, above all, currency.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

• I’m sure I can’t be alone in feeling frustrated at the level of referendum debate. There is also a hint of embarrassment at the thought that the rest of the UK was watching the bickering, but the main issue was that we learned nothing new, and pre-match analysis had already told us that Darling would pick up on the currency debate again, while Salmond would go for the NHS jugular. How would an independent Scottish government respond to what is going on in Syria, and with Isis? Would it stop sending patients to private hospitals? How would it fund pensions, increased childcare, “free” personal care for the elderly, or renationalising Royal Mail? What contingency plans are in place for when businesses and banks move their headquarters south? Whether I think about it from a self-centred perspective, or from concern for my children and future generations, I am alarmed that such a momentous decision will be made on the basis of plans that are so lacking in information and transparency, and which seem, as your editorial suggests (Not so different, 26 August), to take no account of wider world matters.
Dr Sally Cheseldine

• Your editorial rightly says that an independent Scotland will still face the policy dilemmas produced by global capitalism. But it might have the freedom to show more courage, and protect institutions such as the NHS, libraries etc (Losing the plot, 26 August).
John Haworth
Visiting professor in wellbeing, University of Bolton

• Helping the Better Together campaign in the Borders last week, I was told by a voter on the doorstep: “My heart says yes to independence; my head says no.” Yet surely there are as many, if not more, reasons for the heart to say no as well as the head, something the debates have not yet properly recognised. So many of us have mixed heritage and have family and friends across all parts of the UK. Those of us living just south of the border feel these emotional and kinship links particularly strongly and view with alarm the creation of an international frontier between us. Being British as well as Scottish or English is important to us – as another voter said to me: “I’m not giving up my British passport for anyone.” Perhaps, too, someone should remind Alex Salmond that our NHS was introduced by a Welsh secretary of state under a government headed by an Englishman, Clement Attlee, and by a party founded by a Scot, Keir Hardie.
Joyce Quin
Labour, House of Lords

• Suzanne Moore (Comment, 26 August) says the English response to the debate is one of envy. I am British. I was a British public servant for 26 years and I am angry.

Angry that I (and many others) am not allowed to vote on the future of my country. Angry that Salmond is creating hopes that will not take no for an answer. Angry that the yes group is claiming to protect the NHS that was founded by a British government. And angry that UK governments, over the years, have failed, by their self-preserving short-termism, to tackle the West Lothian question. This is at the core of the public perception that politics is irrelevant.

Whatever happens in September, next May we should demand parties that have a long-term view of the future of this nation – “long-term” meaning for the next generation (at least) and not just about pacifying the SNP or Ukip or whoever else is around by then.
Andrew Martin

• Val McDermid stigmatises as “fearties” those who doubt the wisdom of Scottish independence (Comment, 22 August). This playground taunt is not uncommon in Scotland today. Its near relative is the charge that those who do not want independence have a psychological flaw – “the Scottish cringe” – allegedly induced by centuries of alleged English domination. Both are attempts to poison the wells of debate, and discredit those opposed to independence irrespective of the arguments they may offer. On the other side devotees are urged to trust all to Scotland somewhat as the religious are supposed to trust all to the Lord. Perhaps such attitudes are only to be expected when no one really has the capacity to master all the relevant information and make a fully informed judgment.
Paul Brownsey

• As an Englishman, my desire for the union to continue is based on my feeling British and the belief that together we can build something finer than if we split apart; but looking around the world, I am also frightened about the future. No one knows what political and economic storms may lie ahead; we should hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and I for one will feel safer if Scotland remains part of us. Giving in to fear is cowardice, but not listening to it is foolishness.
Joe Morison

• Sir Tom Hunter said: “Whatever the people decide we’ll just get on with it” (Report, 20 August). And the “we” Scotland’s first billionaire is referring to is really the few who own the country. “That’s democracy,” he concedes, generously. In fact it is the opposite, but he neatly exposes the irrelevance of the referendum and the sham that is democracy within capitalism.
Brian Gardner
Glasgow branch, Socialist party of Great Britain

Statue of Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated in El Salvador in 1980, over the Great West Door of

With reference to your editorial (Pope Francis and liberation theology: Second coming, 25 August), the decision to put in process the beatification of Oscar Romero is considered by many to be overdue. I suspect, however, that in many ways Romero would echo the sentiment of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker: “Don’t call me a saint. I do not want to be dismissed so easily.”

In 1988 during the so-called dirty war, I visited El Salvador for the first time. Back then Romero’s tomb was at the door of the incomplete cathedral in San Salvador. It was a place of pilgrimage for the “poor church for the poor” seeking inspiration, courage and comfort.

Out in the barrios, catechists and animators nurtured a new kind of Christianity founded on belief in the humanity of God, a reading of the Bible from the perspective of the poor, and a commitment to solidarity.

Returning a couple of years ago, I found that Romero’s tomb now resides in the basement of the cathedral. No longer do the crowds flock with their concerns. By and large, the animators and catechists – as well as the theology they espoused – have been marginalised and discredited.

The true saints are those who continue to strive, against the odds, for the foundation of civil society marked by biblical accompaniment, human rights, historical memory and the martyrs.

If there is to be any kind of “second coming” as a result of the decision to beatify Oscar Romero, it is the “poor church of the poor” that will need to be rehabilitated, together with the methodology and spirit that once offered the hope of true liberation.
Rt Rev Peter B Price
Gillingham, Dorset

• Liberation theology cannot be picked up from South America and planted in the UK. But its method of doing theology – from the perspective of the poor, studying the facts and being shocked by their circumstances – can be. Leonardo Boff, silenced by the Vatican in 1992, wrote: “The central question is how to exercise faith in the midst of social oppression. How should the ecclesiastical community interact with the political community?”

The short answer to Boff’s question (posed in an essay, The Originality of Liberation Theology, in The Future Of Liberation Theology: Essays In Honour of Gustavo Gutiérrez, published in 1989) is with and for poor people who suffer innocently. That is done out of the love inspired by the innocent suffering of our founder, who joined them on a cross.

Our first-world churches are complicit with extreme free-market politics and do not reflect, in the light of our faith, on the oppression done in the name of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Our ineffectiveness can be measured by the increasing oppression of the poorest citizens in the UK.

We desperately need bishops and archbishops who will interact with the political community and the public in the manner of Oscar Romero. He famously said: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist. When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980, the eve of the enthronement of Robert Runcie as archbishop of Canterbury.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

The issue of the work detainees do in immigration removal centres is more complex than your article suggests (Immigration detainees ‘are being used as cheap labour’, 23 August). The opportunity for detainees and prisoners to take part in work and other purposeful activity in any form of detention is widely recognised as essential to their mental and emotional wellbeing and an important means of reducing the likelihood of self-harm. The right of detainees to take part in work is recognised in relevant international human rights standards. We have not identified any detainee in the UK immigration centres we inspect who has been forced to take part in work; we have found many who want to work but are unable to do so. This is sometimes because there are not the jobs available and sometimes because the Home Office has placed an arbitrary ban on those they judge to be not cooperating with the immigration process from having a job in detention. It would not be in the interests of detainees if the work that was already available for those who wished to do it was reduced. What is required is better-quality and better-paid work available for all detainees on a voluntary basis.
Nick Hardwick
Chief inspector of prisons

Paul Mason’s criteria for the perfect city (The 10 things a perfect city needs, 25 August) sound rather like the Monocle quality of life survey he dismisses. We give marks for cities with great bike paths and tram networks, prefer those where independent coffee shops outnumber Starbucks and where a gay couple can walk hand in hand without a problem. In our top cities education and healthcare are free, high streets are filled with local entrepreneurs and startups, great architecture is preserved and the nightlife is eclectic. If Mason hurries to his nearest newsagent (another thing we mark) he should still be able to pick up a copy of our July/August issue which has the latest survey.
Steve Bloomfield
Foreign editor, Monocle

• Richard Attenborough wasn’t “a lifelong Labour man”, as Peter Bradshaw says (25 August). In the 1980s he was in the SDP. In the 1987 election he drove me round Cambridge in his Rolls-Royce in support of Shirley Williams.
Mark Bostridge

• Your report (‘A pint, bitte’ – inept spies undid Nazi invasion, 23 August) omits the story of the two German spies who come ashore in Kent, dressed in suits and bowler hats, and head for the nearest pub. “Two martinis please,” says one. “Dry?” asks the barman. “Nein, zwei!” comes the reply.
Joe Locker
Surbiton, Surrey

• Surely the statement “Beaconsfield’s increase in house prices is because of its local ‘good school’” (Report, 26 August) should be the other way round: “Beaconsfield’s local school is good because pupils come from homes worth £…”
Margaret Davis

• Our headmaster asked who’d stolen the hook. “Which hook, sir?” a boy asked. “The hook to hang the bucket we keep the sand for putting fires out with in on,” he said (Letters, 23 August).
Steve Till
Upper Farringdon, Hampshire

• In the birthdays listed on 26 August, you omitted the Duke of Gloucester’s job. I think we should be told.
Orlando Goodden
Frome, Somerset

us flags as bombs cartoon

Arms are the real problem

How could anyone suggest, as Timothy Garton Ash does, that only by working with the US can the problems of the Middle East be solved (8 August)? The US is mainly the cause of the problems; everywhere it interferes, it leaves bedlam behind. Iraq was livable before the invasion; now there is chaos. Of course, the US administration may have had good intentions but the American companies that it employs – Halliburton, Blackwater, KBR – are only in there for the money.

Part of the problem is that three major recipients of aid from the US are Israel, Egypt and Colombia, and much of that assistance is in the form of arms, so as a result innocent people are being killed and nothing is being done. We know the story in Gaza, but in Egypt the democratically elected government was overthrown with the aid of US arms, and in Colombia it’s the same story as rightwing paramilitaries enforce a reign of terror on defenceless victims and it is condoned by the present government, which is supported by the US and Britain.

So what’s the solution? No more arms. Let the money be put into something much more useful and long-lasting: infrastructure, education, hospitals, long-term employment projects and general development and wellbeing.
Gemma Hensey
Westport, Ireland

• I am intrigued by Timothy Garton Ash’s statement “not moral, because Europeans, of all people, should never be silent while war crimes are being committed”. As he doesn’t supply any reason for the comment, I’m left to wonder whether he means that Europeans have higher moral standards than others, or that Europeans have committed so many egregiously immoral war crimes.
Deborah Yaffe
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

We must solve inequality

Perhaps it’s time to update Karl Marx: rather than simply “the opiate of the masses”, religion has today taken on the additional role of an aphrodisiac for those consumed by the lust for power. As Jonathan Freedland reminds us in your lead story of 15 August, today’s jihadi frequently has an educated background, possibly a Harvard MBA, together with the backing of the global superpowers, the primary source of his weaponry as well as his grudges.

As always, the underlying issue in most if not all such conflicts is inequality. However sincere Barack Obama and the few enlightened world leaders may be in their attempts to tackle this problem, they are hamstrung by the short-term goals of the real power-brokers: the arms manufacturers and their military supporters, the financiers and the oil barons as well as the multinationals, whose profitability is based on feeding their willing market with fear, envy and greed, all in the name of globalisation.

Their specious credo is that only by encouraging developing countries to emulate the level of unsustainable consumption and waste enjoyed by the developed world can global equity be achieved, as George Monbiot points out in the same issue of Guardian Weekly. I fear that only the imminent collapse of the global house of cards will allow the restoration of sanity and sustainability so desperately sought by us “deviants”, to use Monbiot’s terminology. Be proud of your deviancy, but first be very, very afraid.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

Neoliberalism is a con

George Monbiot is right: neoliberalism is a self-serving con (15 August). In New Zealand, too, we’re beginning to see the light with the publication of four books in the last year outlining the damage that this self-serving doctrine has wreaked on our once egalitarian society.

We might have been the first to set up a welfare system after the Great Depression, but we were also among the first to adopt the so-called free market neoliberal policies trumpeted by Reagan and Thatcher. This we did to extremes that astonished even the authors of those policies.

Thirty years later, after subsequent rightwing governments restricted workers’ rights, cut welfare benefits and bolstered the private sector at the expense of the public, the features of this disaster are clear. More than 200,000 of New Zealand children live in such poverty that many often go to school hungry. Free bottles of milk are now given out at morning tea in most schools. We are the seventh most unequal country in the OECD. Inequality is associated with crime: we have the second-highest rate of imprisonment in the OECD.

Fortunately a groundswell of revolt has emerged among thinking people who have contributed searching analyses of where and how this failed mantra went wrong. The most recent of these books is Beyond the Free Market: Rebuilding a Just Society in New Zealand. In its foreword, former high court judge Sir Edmund Thomas declares that the neoliberal revolution was an appalling mistake.
Pat Baskett
Auckland, New Zealand

Myths of privatisation

I commend Ha-Joon Chang for pointing out, in Privatised UK is far from perfect (8 August), some of the examples that give the lie to the myth that government enterprises are inherently less efficient than those run by private enterprise.

Another myth that needs exposure is that right-leaning governments make better financial managers than those less so inclined. When a rightwing government privatises – ie sells off – assets, the proceeds of the sale are accounted as revenue, thereby increasing that government’s surplus or reducing its deficit. Similarly, when a nationalising government purchases an enterprise, the transaction is treated as a cost, making privatisers appear to be better managers than nationalisers. In neither case has the effect of the transaction upon the national balance sheet been accounted for.

When a political party claims that private enterprise is more efficient than public ownership, it is really just admitting that it finds public ownership too difficult, and indeed it is almost axiomatic that it should find it so – running public utilities and other national enterprises involves not only budgetary outcomes but also the effectiveness of the service provided, to say nothing of the longer-term stability of the society it serves. This is a far more complex matter than the running of a business, in which the bottom line is all that matters.

Political parties of almost all colours have recently increased privatisation; in many cases this is a symptom of their incompetence.
David Barker
Bunbury, Western Australia

Swimming in the nude

To Daniel Start’s question, what can one do to avoid offence when swimming without clothes (8 August), I would reply – take a holiday in Germany. Especially in the former East, the culture of swimming and sunbathing in the buff remains strong, and there is nothing like the sense of prudish outrage that regularly seems to accompany sporadic displays of naked flesh in Britain and many other parts of the world.

Never a fan of nudism myself, since moving here three years ago I have developed the habit of naked swimming after morning runs. My favourite swimming lake is in the middle of the city and even in the early morning there is usually quite a lot of naked traffic. On sunny days dozens of naturists populate the lawns while foreign tourists walk by and everybody else just goes about their business.

Stephen Gough, the naked rambler, may be interested to hear that in some areas of Germany, for instance in the Harz mountains, naked hiking is actively encouraged to promote tourism, and even outside those areas his antics would be unlikely to be met with much interest from the authorities. For anyone eager to throw off his textiles – this is the place to be!
Stephan Quentin
Potsdam, Germany

Law in Hong Kong

Anson Chan may wish to consider international law in her fight for democracy in Hong Kong (22 August). Since the Hong Kong basic legal agreement is signed by Britain, China and Hong Kong, British law must surely come in. If that is not the case, then British accession to various UN treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights opens another way for international law to operate. In 1997 the Chinese government informed the UN that “the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force beginning from 1 July 1997”.

Some even think these covenants make nuclear weapons and even guns illegal. That is, that citizens have the right to peaceful enjoyment of their environment and not to be blasted to smithereens.
Paul Knobel
Auckland, New Zealand


• I might have enjoyed Rupert Myers’s article on running (15 August) if I had been able to make it past his errors. Pheidippides ran to Sparta before the battle of Marathon seeking help. After the battle he ran to Athens to report the victory. It is this second journey that is honoured by the name and race. He certainly didn’t practise “relentless, tiresome bragging about the achievement” because “as any fule kno”, having reported the victory, he died.
Andrew Lacey
Mold, UK

Please send lett


Throughout the Scottish independence debate, the Better Together campaign has been too much based on threats and negativity, letting itself down as a result. Now, however, I’m surprised by how the pro-independence side has been let down by the SNP’s leader, through lack of dignity and answers.

In the latest TV clash between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, Darling seemed to handle himself well enough, but Salmond never seemed to have any real facts, figures or answers to key questions, turning instead to a personal and nasty attack on the person in front of him.

He was incredibly rude, continuing to talk over and interrupt his opponent – something which must be embarrassing for many Yes voters.

Whatever the result of Scotland’s referendum, it will likely now lead to even greater enmity and division that will not be easily overcome.

Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire

As an English outsider doggedly sitting through the TV debate on Scottish independence, my overwhelming feeling  was that neither protagonist presented an attractive option for the rest of  the UK.

Mr Salmond concentrated on cobbling together a ludicrous (certainly for Scotland) currency union and a costly (at least to the rest of the UK) defence policy, while Mr Darling painted a picture of Scotland dependent on potential financial bailouts from the rest of the UK.

Not a great future, whichever side prevails.

David Bracey
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Gordon Brown says that the NHS is safer in the UK than in an independent Scotland. This is either the height of arrogance or a belief that the public have no memory.

The idea of funding hospital building using PFI (private finance initiative) was introduced at the end of the Thatcher period and picked up by Brown, who drove the plan very hard, so that it became the norm in England.

The private companies would finance and build new hospitals and lease them back to the NHS. It was claimed that this funding method passed the financial risk from the Government on to the private sector – which was rubbish.

To get the banks and private companies to lend the money, the Treasury had to agree to underwrite the risks of the projects.  PFI is thus a risk-free bonanza for the private sector.

Contracts were for 30-60 years at rates varying from 5.3 to 7.9 per cent per annum. PFI repayments increased by nearly £200m from £459m in 2009/10 to £628.7m in 2011/12. In one PFI contract, by 2011 the taxpayer owed £121.4bn to pay for an infrastructure valued at £52.9bn.

At the end of the lease, the building becomes the property of the private company, with the NHS owning nothing.

Chief executives of PFI-funded facilities had to show how the annual debt charges would be met from the operating budgets, ie the budget that normally pays for staff and supplies. Since rental had to be paid out of NHS funds, this reduced the funds available for treating patients. The Blair/Brown Government therefore produced a cut in NHS funding.

Alistair Darling was part of the Blair/Brown Cabinet and succeeded Gordon Brown as Chancellor. Can we trust either Brown or Darling with financial matters?

Dr E L Lloyd

In the second debate between Salmond and Darling, Salmond emphasised that Scots at home would be well looked after in their old age. Has  he taken into consideration the cost of care and pensions for the many thousands of expat Scots who will wish to return home on retirement?

Will his five million fellow countrymen be prepared to pay for their care single-handed? It  could be very expensive  for the Scottish taxpayer.

Alastair Stewart
Little Baddow, Essex

The best question of the night came from the audience: “If we are better together, why are we not better just now?”

Robert Stewart
Wilmslow, Cheshire


Isis illustrates futility of trident

I unequivocally condemn the brutal murders of Lee Rigby and James Foley, but I dare welcome the birth of Islamic State (Isis) – only to emphasise the folly of the claim that we need the Trident nuclear weapons system as the ultimate guarantee of our security.

Armed only with its twisted interpretation  of the Koran and conventional weapons, Isis has sent shockwaves through the nuclear-armed and Nato-allied British Government.

Supported by Labour, Theresa May has announced that she is to introduce an “anti-social behaviour order” that will strip extremists with dual nationality of their citizenship. Boris Johnson wants anyone returning from an unauthorised trip to Syria or Iraq to be presumed guilty of terrorism.

David Davis has gone further and called for anyone suspected of terrorism activities to be stripped of their citizenship.

None of these drastic measures will protect Britain from violence by home-grown or home-based Islamist fundamentalists. On the contrary, they are likely to go underground to launch a devastating attack, as they did on 7/7.

As someone who spent two years working with Ealing borough police as a volunteer stop-and-search adviser, I can say that the British people are hopelessly exposed to an existential threat from home-grown terrorism thanks to the savage cuts in public spending, which have seen a massive reduction in police numbers.

Police officers who have remained in post are demoralised because their overtime allowances have also been reduced or cut. These cuts are taking  place while we are  planning to replace  Trident at an estimated  cost of £100bn.

Unless we are planning to nuke these home-grown terrorists on our streets, or in Iraq and Syria, the Government and all the main parties must seriously consider whether to go ahead with the plan to replace Trident, or spend that money recruiting, training and equipping more police and intelligence personnel.

Sam Akaki
London W3


Given that Isis, Hezbollah and Hamas are one in their openly avowed intent to eradicate the Little Satan (Israel) followed by the Great Satan (the US/the West), one can appreciate that “robust and concerted action by the Western allies” is urged by your editorial (22 August). Furthermore, “there must be no bargaining with fanatics”, simply “eradication”.

Yet, The Independent has condemned Israel for its “disproportionate” reaction to rocket attacks. If Isis reaches the shores of the Mediterranean, one wonders how “proportionate” the West’s reaction will be? Not very, if your editorial is anything to go by.

Gillian Cook
Woodingdean, East Sussex


The United Nations must be the obvious route to tackling Isis. It can’t be right that the West, the UK, the US or Nato takes the lead, as the problem has largely been created by the West, and can only be made worse by further meddling.

We must call for the UN to convene a session of the Security Council to create a consensus, with the help of Russia and China, and especially involving the key regional players, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

Martin Pasteiner
London W9 

GM’s opponents propagate myths

I read Peter Popham’s article on Vandana Shiva with interest (“GM food and the heir to Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy”, 21 August). I was pleased to note that it pointed out that Ms Shiva’s “demonising” of technologies such as GM “is doing her impoverished compatriots no favours”.

As the article notes, such technologies “could potentially improve the lives of millions”. But they are being prevented from doing so by dogmatic promotion of museum agriculture and calculated myths around the safety of agricultural technologies. The reference to so-called “terminator technology”, rendering a seed sterile, is one such myth promoted by anti-GM activists. The agricultural industry has never developed seeds or crop varieties with such a trait, nor is there any intention of doing so.

I look forward to the continued evidence-based approach your paper provides on this much-maligned technology.

Dr Julian Little
Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council
London WC1


A ‘no experience necessary’ job?

The ongoing tussle over the appointment of the clerk of the Commons (“Parliamentary clerk ‘doesn’t need experience’”, 25 August) is difficult to comprehend. More difficult to understand, however – now that John Bercow is arguing that no previous parliamentary experience is necessary – is why the position commands a salary of £200,000.

Gordon Watt


Bad-tempered TV arguments do not provide critical Scots with the decisive data

Sir, I am a young Scot, and I am tired of this Yes/No stuff as both sides play headline-grabbing politics. I care for Scotland’s future and I am annoyed when important long-term issues are dismissed with a quick meaningless statement. I want solid facts to decide on, rather than promises and personalities.

Gordon Mackie


Sir, Alistair Darling’s lacklustre performance underlines the need for the No campaign to deploy Gordon Brown, Jim Murphy and George Galloway against Alex Salmond. These three have passion and are not afraid to talk positively about Britishness and shared values. They also engage with the effect that breaking up the UK would have on Europe and the world. Darling never seems to get beyond the pound and oil. The Yes campaign has been allowed to occupy the moral high ground for too long — we need some fiery preachy types rather than an accountant to challenge it.

The Rev Dr Ian Bradley

St Andrews, Fife

Sir, In the recent TV clash Alistair Darling seemed to handle himself well enough but Mr Salmond never seems to have any real facts, figures or answers to key questions. His rudeness, continuing to talk over his opponent, must be embarrassing for many Yes voters.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wilts

Sir, I am surprised that there has been so little reference in the No campaign to the family ties within the UK. I am English and living in England, but I am married to a Scot. My children are half Scottish and my grandchildren a quarter Scottish. There must be millions of people on both sides of the border who are dismayed at the prospect of the other side becoming foreign.

Tim Capon

Motcombe, Dorset

Sir, Westminster and our political leaders seem to be doing nothing to actively preserve our union. In September it could be ended without any say from its members (including those of Scottish ancestry) outside Scotland.

Philip Beddows

Munslow, Shropshire

Sir, Last night we saw a spectacle more suited to a bar-room shouting match than a serious debate on the future of our two countries. The most concerning aspect of the evening was the lack of any academic rigour around the arguments on both sides which often seemed to descend into cheap point-scoring by both participants amid a proliferation of numbers and statistics completely unverifiable by the average viewer.

Dennis Lock

Watford, Herts

Sir, The potential ramifications of a Yes vote in the referendum are far too serious to be influenced by this sorry spectacle, where mere posturing took the place of substance.

Politicians of all parties are doing us a huge disservice in the run-up to the referendum. Is there no person of substance, in Scotland, prepared to spell out, in simple terms, the real dangers of full independence? The SNP and its supporters must understand that there is no pot of gold at the end of their rainbow.

Bravery overshadows any technical priority disputes about Victoria Cross winners

Sir, Maurice French (letter, Aug 25) and you (report, Aug 25) are both right. Francis Grenfell, my great-uncle, was technically the first VC. The award was not officially made until it was published in the London Gazette, or gazetted. Francis’s award was the first to be gazetted. However, the occasion which gave rise to the award took place the day after Dease’s.

Bravery, however, does not need such distinctions.

Michael Grenfell

Westcot, Oxon

Gladstone’s foreign policy may contain a lesson for us today in dealing with Islamic extremists

Sir, Paul Marshall (Aug 25) overlooks the glaring calamity of Gladstone’s “moral foreign policy” — its failure to prevent the establishment of a militant fundamentalist Islamic state that ruled a million square miles of Africa for 13 years. The Sudanese Mahadiya was made possible by Gladstone’s not intervening in 1884 in support of General Gordon, only sending the famous Khartoum Relief Expedition, which was too little too late. The Mahadiya was then left alone by the British for more than a decade, fighting a series of savage jihads against all neighbouring states including Christian Ethiopia and even the Belgian Congo. It was only when the French threatened to establish themselves on the Nile in the late 1890s that Kitchener finally went in to eradicate Sudan’s Islamic theocracy using massively disproportionate military force at Omdurman, known to Africans as the Battle of Karari.

There may well be a topically relevant lesson from history somewhere in there.

Ralph Lloyd-Jones


The death of Lord Attenborough throws open the question of the city’s most famous scions

Sir, Oliver Kamm tells us that David Attenborough is now unrivalled as the most distinguished living Leicesterian (Aug 26). Leaving aside that Sir David was born in London, is Gary Lineker no longer with us?

Frank Greaney

Formby, Liverpool

Memories from the son of the man who painted the Sistine ceiling for The Agony and the Ecstasy

Sir, You said that the Sistine chapel ceiling in a Worthing church is the only full size copy in the world (Aug 23), and a very fine achievement it is too. However, if you cast your mind back to the film The Agony and The Ecstasy, starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo, you will see the ceiling being painted by my father, Ferdinand Bellan, one of the greatest film scenic artists. I think that reproduction was sold to a private buyer as a complete work of art, to be re-assembled elsewhere.

Peter Bellan

St Davids


Bad neighbours: the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building looms over 19th-century Eastcheap, London  Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 26 Aug 2014


SIR – In your recent discussion of the sort of houses we want built, John Cuthbert wrote a letter (July 28) that said: “Planning applications should be determined solely with regard to town planning policy… What the neighbours think is irrelevant.”

With apparatchiks in town halls, and the tragically mediocre buildings born of their planning-policy-informed decisions sprawled across our landscape, no wonder people feel the urge to become Nimbys. Nimbyism often has an honourable Betjemanesque affection for the old, the quiet and the beautiful at its heart. Planning policy needs to be altered, to protect and promote such beauty.

If I were his “invariably uninformed” neighbour, Mr Cuthbert could dismiss me, a rural architect, as a “baa-baa” (motto: “Beauty above all”). It would be an honour.

Juliet Blaxland
Southwold, Suffolk

Sir Richard Attenborough Photo: EPA

6:59AM BST 26 Aug 2014


SIR – Having served with many regimental sergeant majors and been terrified by some, I believe Richard Attenborough’s portrayal of an RSM in Guns at Batasi will remain unsurpassed.

Since he won the Bafta Best Actor award for the role, my belief may not be unique.

Michael Nicholson
Dunsfold, Surrey

SIR – In the Seventies, BBC Television still broadcast a five-minute appeal every month for a selected charity. I was the producer of these when one of his charities nominated Richard Attenborough to be the presenter of its appeal.

As was customary, I booked a table for lunch at a restaurant for us to plan the filming, feeling not a little nervous about directing such an eminent film director. I need not have worried. He was kindness and helpfulness itself from start to finish, and what remains in my mind is that, perhaps guessing that my budget would be very tight, he was the only one out of all the celebrities I worked with who insisted that he, and not the BBC, paid for our lunch.

Patricia Owtram
London W4

SIR – Lord Attenborough, who in 1982 produced his Oscar-winning film Gandhi, was so biased towards the Left in politics that he showed more than one round of fire at Amritsar, and tried to convince his viewers we lost India entirely because of Gandhi.

The Indians remain forever grateful for what we gave them: cricket, railways, democracy, the rule of law and a knowledge of English to communicate between communities with different languages.

Lord Sudeley
London NW1

Husband on hand

SIR – An inquiry to a friend, asking how she was coping with her husband’s retirement (Letters, August 25), drew the reply: “Frightful, I’ve got twice the husband, on half the money.”

Alan Campbell Graham
London SW17

Of proud descent

SIR – David Cleave (Letters, August 22) found his mother’s name in a Telegraph crossword. My surname appears in every Telegraph crossword.

Julian Down
Wilsford, Wiltshire

Not a clerk to be found

SIR – Surely Carol Mills should not get a work visa for Parliament’s top job of Clerk of the House of Commons if there are other qualified British citizens for the job.

Mary-Lou Kellaway
Cookham Dean, Berkshire

SIR – Though I harbour no ill will towards Ms Mills, it is difficult not to be jealous of her. I would certainly be delighted to be appointed to a new job at a salary of £200,000 and then have its responsibilities halved.

Another triumph for Mr Speaker!

Andrew Mackenzie

SIR – As experience is not required for the post, can anyone apply?

Alan Sabatini
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – If Carol Mills will do half the job, the taxpayer will now have to pay for two instead of one.

Ramji Abinashi
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Fry-up pie

SIR – For heaven’s sake, can we be freed from such doom-laden opinions as those of the easily shocked Professor Lean (a clue in the name?), who wants to ban the fry-up pie from a hospital canteen?

If you’re stuck in bed, you are probably not going to want to eat heavily anyway. And what about the notion that having a hearty breakfast is actually good for weight control because it removes the need to snack during the day?

Colin Jamieson
Horncastle, Lincolnshire

SIR – Surely a fry-up pie, crammed with bacon, sausage, black pudding and beans, with an egg on top, would rate highly on most people’s favourite meals list.

At only £1.50, I would not be surprised if many fry-up aficionados were intending to wend their way to the hospital in Dundee to avail themselves of such a bargain.

Dr Roy Stanley
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Wet day of your choice

SIR – On the annoying problem of wet and miserable bank holidays, how about if they were cancelled except for the religious ones of Christmas Day and Good Friday? The remainder could be taken at the discretion of working people when they wanted.

This would stop the disruption caused by rubbish collections being changed, postal collections and deliveries being cancelled and the general confusion of a shorter working week.

Ann Ankers
Bwlchgwyn, Denbighshire

Biker on one knee

SIR – I had to shout my proposal twice before my wife accepted (Letters, August 25). We were crossing Hammersmith Broadway on a motorbike at the time.

We celebrate our diamond anniversary in 2016, as she frequently reminds me. Unfortunately I am now hard of hearing.

Quentin de la Bedoyere
London SW19

SIR – My university room-mate proposed by mail. He soon received a favourable, if somewhat formal, reply from his intended’s father, a farmer in the South West. “Dear Terrence, Regarding your inquiry…”.

Robert Stephenson
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Britain is incapable of keeping jihadists out

SIR – There is a sort of weary despair every time we hear of new laws the Government announces to control the return or citizenship of British-born “jihadists”.

However draconian these plans sound, it is obvious from our leaky borders that we do not have the ability to control anyone’s entry. How, overnight, is this situation to be miraculously improved?

Ginny Martin
Bishops Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – While I welcome the Tory calls for jihadists to lose their passports, credit where it’s due, please. Surely Nigel Farage was the first to raise the idea.

R A McWhirter
Zurich, Switzerland

SIR – The revelation that Britain’s borders are dangerously porous comes as little surprise to those of us who have some knowledge of the issue. As a former senior officer in the UK Immigration Service I am well aware of the substantial changes to border control that over recent years have had a wholly negative effect.

The merging of Customs and Immigration in 2008 resulted in many managers with no experience being placed in positions of responsibility. This, along with limited detention accommodation to hold foreign prisoners awaiting deportation (used more than ever was intended) are only two of the major problems.

Home Office statements about robust action are made in inverse proportion to the actual state of control.

Mike Stanley
Hale, Cheshire

SIR – Will Boris Johnson (“Britons who go to Syria ‘are guilty until proven innocent’, says Boris Johnson”) still go ahead with events to celebrate the anniversary of Magna Carta?

John Gresham

Evidence that the Scottish debate has given way to intimidation

Roadside signs in support of the Better Together campaign have been defaced

Sally Page said posters were being attacked at night only hours after they had been put in place

A defaced poster displaying the ‘No Thanks’ slogan Photo: William Page

7:00AM BST 26 Aug 2014


SIR – I am persuaded to write, having just driven from Perth to Dundee. Rightly, there are prominent signs for both Yes and No campaigns. It is worrying that, whereas not one Yes notice is damaged, the majority of those supporting Better Together have sadly been vandalised.

This indicates to me that some supporters of the Yes campaign either do not have confidence in their policies or that those responsible really have decided that, with less than three weeks to go, intimidation is the only way that they can win.

Mike Beale
Bridge of Earn, Perthshire

SIR – The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are not part of the United Kingdom, are able to use the pound as their currency, so why is Scotland not allowed the same privilege?

I speak as an Englishman who is ashamed of my country’s bullying tactics.

Kevin Cottrell
Buckland, Oxfordshire

SIR – The Scottish share of the UK national debt would be nothing like as small as the £143 billion that the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests (Business, August 25). It ignores the public sector pension liability of £1,000 billion, the old age pensions liability of another £1,000 billion and several trillion more besides.

At least with independence the Scots might know what their debts really are.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

SIR – I have seen little reference to the defence of the (new) Scottish realm apart from clearing the Royal Navy out of Faslane.

Since 1949 the Western nations have enjoyed the shield of the “collective security” policy of the Nato nations. Will the new Scotland be committing its forces to Nato? The Scottish regiments, maybe, but what about the Scottish navy and the Scottish air force? I am reminded of the French exit from Nato’s integrated military structure in the Sixties, when it chose to enjoy the protection of collective security without having to pay the full subscription.

Robert Price
Malton, North Yorkshire

SIR – Current BBC weather forecasts completely ignore the existence of the Irish Republic. If Scotland votes to leave the Union, will the BBC stop broadcasting weather forecasts for Scotland?

Eric Clark
Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire

SIR – There appear to be three questions that nobody is bringing up.

1 In the event of a Yes vote, will there ever be another referendum?

2 In the event of a No vote, when will the next referendum take place?

3 Do all British citizens living in Scotland on a given date lose their British citizenship?

Robert Pugh

Irish Times:

Sir, – May I remind Fintan O’Toole (“Why Ireland never faced up to the issue of abortion”, Opinion & Analysis, August 26th) that while many of the organisations supporting the pro-life agenda are Roman Catholic, there are many non-Catholics with coinciding views who are just as passionate? If I mention that I am a pro-life Protestant (Christian), would that throw Mr O’Toole into statistical confusion? Could he cope knowing that someone who has no connection or affiliation to the Catholic Church is opposed to abortion?

He may be disappointed that Ireland is the “only country in the democratic world to have a constitutional ban on abortion” but for most people, I suggest, this fact is a cause for relief, not dismay. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – In their letter of August 28th, a large number of academics argue that “it is time that this generation had its referendum” and that “that referendum must transform the law on access to abortion care”.

We support their case for repealing the eighth amendment (and the other subsequent amendments that sought to mop up the mess left by it). We also share their objection to a set of laws that fails to account for the moral principle that women ought to have control over their own bodies.

But we are wary of repeating the error of inserting detail into the Constitution on this broad question. No matter what the wording, the constitutionalising of matters such as access to abortion care places judges in the position of having to interpret vague text in the light of particular circumstances, unavoidably influenced to at least some extent by their own predilections and preferences.

Just as before, constitutional wording and judicial decree would come to shape and even stifle subsequent public debate on the matter, often excluding reasonable policy choices.

Too often the Constitution has been used by political actors as a shield behind which to hide from making decisions on difficult issues.

A constitution is mainly a mechanism for establishing the essential political institutions. It can also serve to entrench broad principles of equality and liberty, as well as general rights and freedoms. It is up to citizens and their representatives to make the best of those principles and rights through ordinary politics. More constitutional provisions might merely impose this generation’s beliefs on subsequent generations. – Yours, etc,



School of Law

and Government,

Dublin City University,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – John Bruton (“Home rule and an Ireland without the bloodshed”, Opinion & Analysis, August 25th) restates his view that John Redmond and his party were a constitutional and non-violent movement that managed to achieve home rule by parliamentary means.

This ignores the extent to which violence, or the threat of violence, formed part of Irish political life before 1916. Redmond’s party was quite prepared to use force against its rivals and did so regularly, using the sectarian Ancient Order of Hibernians to intimidate opponents.

But crucially Mr Bruton also fails to grasp how Redmond hugely oversold his “achievement” to the party’s supporters in Ireland. In March 1912 Redmond’s deputy, John Dillon, told 100,000 people in Dublin’s O’Connell Street that  “we have undone, and are undoing the work of three centuries of confiscation and persecution . . . the holy soil of Ireland is passing back rapidly into the possession of the children of our race . . . and the work of Oliver Cromwell is nearly undone”.

Do these words conjure up a vision of an Irish parliament with limited powers remaining firmly within the British imperial framework? For many nationalists home rule meant not devolution but the “virtual undoing of the conquest”.

They were often encouraged in this belief by the rhetoric used by the Irish Party’s MPs. The Limerick MP William Lundon explained in 1907 that home rule would not mean “a little parliament in Dublin that would pay homage to the big one, but a sovereign and independent one and if he had his own way he would break the remaining links that bound the two countries . . . he was trained in another school [and] he was not a parliamentarian when he walked with his rifle on his shoulder on the night of the 5th of March [the Fenian rising of 1867].”

Such rhetoric was not unusual given that up to 25 per cent of the party’s MPs in the early 1900s were former Fenians. Indeed Redmond himself had spent much of the 1890s campaigning for republican prisoners, arguing that “they are our kith and kin. They are men who sacrificed everything that was most dear to them in an effort to benefit Ireland. What do we care whether their effort was a wise one or not, whether a mistaken one or not?”

Indeed when Tom Clarke was released in 1897 he personally thanked Redmond for his efforts on his behalf. The home rulers were a “slightly constitutional” party and they oversold the promise of home rule to such an extent that rather than satisfying nationalist aspirations it was likely to prove a huge disappointment. Any discussion of the party’s record needs to take these facts into account. – Yours, etc,


Dunmanus Road,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – The decision by Bank of Ireland to block financial transfers to Cuba (“Bank of Ireland stops transfers to Cuba due to US embargo”, August 25th) is a clear example of the extraterritorial nature of the United States blockade of Cuba.

Ireland, together with its partners in the EU, opposes the blockade, which has been overwhelmingly condemned in 22 consecutive votes in the UN general assembly.

Under new legislation, the Single Euro Payment Area (Sepa) means that banks with tie-ins to financial institutions in the US are vulnerable to hefty financial penalties if they facilitate transfers to Cuba. The US is extending its blockade over the European Union and using Sepa to further isolate and weaken the Cuban economy.

The US blockade is an anachronistic and illegal piece of cold war legislation which should be withdrawn by Washington as part of a wider normalisation of relations between the US and Cuba. Ireland and its EU partners should resist the financial bullying by the US on this issue and think twice about endorsing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will result in even closer harmonisation of financial relations between Brussels and Washington. – Yours, etc,



Centre for Global Education,

University Street, Belfast.

Sir, – Henry McLave (August 23rd) has suggested that “engineers, councillors and shopkeepers will ride roughshod” to support the upgrading of the Barrow towpath.

As a retired engineer, living beside and overlooking the Barrow towpath, may I say as gently as possible that I fully support the planned development of a hard-surfaced track.

The linking of towns and villages along the river by a safe, level, traffic-free cycle route would open the area wonderfully for tourism, especially family groups. It would also open the possibility of young people who live near the river being able to cycle in a traffic-free environment to secondary schools in their local towns.

The level towpaths would also be very wheelchair friendly.

We have watched otters play in the floodlights and come up on the tarmac paths in Leighlinbridge. We have watched kingfishers fishing from the recently rebuilt quays. To raise fears that irreparable damage would be done to the local wildlife by putting down a stone track beside the Barrow may be an effective emotive argument, but does not stand up to any real scrutiny.

I walk a few kilometres along this path on most days of the year. In autumn, winter and spring, one rarely meets other people. I suspect this may be partly due for the need for good waterproof walking boots to counter the long grass and slippery paths. A smooth stone path, as proposed, would be much more usable all year round without special footwear.

The Barrow is a magnificent resource and the concept of developing its recreational and tourist potential in a sensitive and inclusive manner is to be applauded. – Yours, etc,



Fisherman’s Lock,


Co Carlow.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (“Belgium gave Irish men reason to enlist and fight”, Rite & Reason, August 26th) says that Germany in the first World War was “unequivocally barbaric and the aggressor” and even compares the behaviour of the German army with that of the Islamic State in Iraq today. He ignores that in the two decades before 1914 Germany was systematically encircled by a huge coalition of France, Russia and Britain. France wanted revenge for its defeat by Bismarck in 1870; Russia as usual was greedy for more territory; and a stagnating Britain was animated by jealousy of the young German nation’s extraordinary economic success.

Yes, Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914 in a pre-emptive strike against the Allies, but that was purely because of the necessities of military strategy – France had to be outflanked because of its fortified borders, and the German government pledged that Belgian territorial sovereignty would not be violated after the war if Belgium did not resist.

Mr McGarry is correct in saying that atrocities were committed by German soldiers against Belgian civilians, but those war crimes were mostly carried out by part-time reservist troops and were not typical of the German army as a whole.

What happened in Belgium in August 1914 pales in comparison to violence against civilians carried out by other powers: the Austro-Hungarian army’s slaughter of Serbian civilians, the Russian army’s pogroms against Jews in Austrian Galicia, not to mention the Turkish genocide of Armenians in 1915. Moreover, the British blockade of Germany throughout the war killed hundreds of thousands of German civilians through slow starvation and consequent susceptibility to illness and the flu pandemic of 1918-19. Germany was not the “monster” of the first World War. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.

Sir, – Stephen Collins’s opinion piece (“Judging the performance of our political leaders”, Opinion & Analysis, August 22nd) regarding the late Albert Reynolds’s political legacy focuses on the latter’s contribution to laying “the foundations” of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

This point has been reiterated far and wide by the political class and media in recent days. Indeed, no one can argue that Reynolds did not take huge risks in his dealings with the British government, and in particular in his personal discussions with republican and loyalist terrorists. However, it is ahistorical to say that Reynolds laid the “foundations” for the early stage of the peace process – this honour belongs to the controversial Charles J Haughey. It was Haughey, while taoiseach in the late 1980s, who initiated secret discussions with Gerry Adams, using John Hume as a go between.

Haughey did not make these discussions public as he was afraid of reaction from within Fianna Fáil and the public at large. Nonetheless, the fact remains that is was Haughey not Reynolds who first took the tentative steps towards laying the foundations of the peace process in Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Department of History

and Politics,

Liverpool Hope University,


Sir, – In response to Sean Connolly’s letter (August 23rd), in which he throws doubt on whether Charles Frederick Ball, former assistant keeper at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, was prompted to enlist after being sent a white feather, might I state that I have it from a reliable source that this is true.

According to Seamus O’Brien, head gardener at Kilmacurragh Gardens, the story of how Ball received the white feather was told to Donal Synott, the then director of the “Bots”, by Sir Frederick Moore’s son, Maj Gen Frederick Moore, who knew Ball. During a visit that he made to the National Botanic Gardens many years after Ball’s death, Moore identified the particular room that had been Ball’s office before recounting to Donal Synott the story of how the white feather had arrived at “poor Charlie Ball’s” desk.

Readers might also be interested to know that by a cruel twist of fate, the despicable white feather campaign of the first World War, where the feather was given as a symbol of cowardice, was initiated by an Irishman, Admiral Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald, in August 1914 – just a month before CF Ball enlisted in the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Could I also add that in mentioning the story of the white feather in my piece on the Irish National War Memorial Gardens (“Garden of tranquility”, Magazine, August 16th), my intention wasn’t in any way to besmirch the reputation of CF Ball, a man who was hugely liked and admired, and who acquitted himself bravely on the battlefield, but to highlight the awfulness of the war that led to his death. – Yours, etc,


Manor Kilbride,

Blessington, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Dr Cora Stack (August 25th) questions the quality of maths textbooks provided at primary level.

Many parents of primary-age schoolchildren assume that the work in the textbook represents all of the work covered by the teacher on a particular maths topic.

In primary classrooms today, the textbook is just one of many teaching resources used by the teacher in the daily maths class. Primary teachers strive to implement a “hands-on” approach to teaching maths, and make use of maths equipment, oral maths games, interactive whiteboard activities, iPad apps and board games when teaching a new maths concept. The textbook is used at the end of the class as a way of reinforcing the learning that has taken place, and for further practice at home.

In my experience, topics such as length, weight, time, capacity and money are best taught without recourse to textbooks at all.

I am returning to school this week to teach a class of 33 senior infants. Instead of a revised maths curriculum or better textbooks, I believe that smaller classes and more learning support time for those who need it are required to ensure more effective maths teaching at primary level. – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – Throughout the Scottish independence debate the No side has consistently taunted the would-be independents with: “How dare you assume you may go on using the British currency?”

Has everyone forgotten that although Ireland wrested her independence from Britain by bitter force of arms, we continued to use sterling for the next half century – even through the economic war with Britain? And cheques drawn on Irish banks were cleared in London? And Irish banknotes, though often refused by shopkeepers, were exchangeable at par in British banks? And even when we introduced the punt, our coinage still continued to work in British vending machines, despite a discount of about 10 per cent?

Maybe other readers can supply reasons for this strange silence. I cannot. – Yours, etc,




Co Offaly.

Sir, – I read with huge interest Rosita Boland’s “Ireland’s over-60s remember” article (Weekend, August 23rd). I realise some of the stories were sad but it was great to read of people’s lives, knowing that they had survived through lots of ups and downs, disappointments and, in some cases, tragedy. As I approach a similar age, I wonder how many children of exiles might have similar stories.Thank you again for a great read. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Monday’s front-page photograph of the Rose of Tralee and the Down Syndrome Ireland ambassador is a commendable promotion of inclusiveness in our society. One hopes that Richard Dawkins submits to further education on this issue. – Yours, etc,


Thomas Square,


Irish Independent:

My earliest recollection of Albert Reynolds goes back to the ‘ballroom of romance’ days, when the young entrepreneur with the scattered oily hair and twinkle in the eye, ran a chain of dance halls.

As his career progressed in the entertainment business, manufacturing and, finally, politics, I was in discussion one day with a friend and unthinkingly referred to him as having all the attributes of a “wizard”.

How true it proved to be. He was a person of extraordinary powers – a genius, a magician and a conjurer. Mr Reynolds was a new breed of politician, having initially made a fortune in business.

Even then, at age 45, he had fitted in three seedling years with Longford Co Council, familiarising himself with the tricks of the trade before finally entering Leinster House as a TD.

He was like a shining star, a figure of honesty and integrity, unpolluted by the ways of 

Thankfully, he remained so until he died, having held ministerial posts, served as Taoiseach and made a noble bid for the Presidency. Mr Reynolds was a man of tenacity with a gambling spirit that was instrumental in bringing about peace between North and South, which we all enjoy today.

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Farewell to a man of peace

I have a vivid recollection of a meeting of the Fianna Fail National Executive on December 2, 1993, when I was a young member of the executive.

Albert Reynolds was Taoiseach and President of Fianna Fail at the time. He was chairing the monthly National Executive meeting in his usual business-like and brisk manner, when a senior civil servant sent word that he was needed on the telephone. It was unusual that the leader of the party would be called out of the meeting to take a call. But I didn’t take much notice of it, and the meeting progressed under the chairmanship of the late Brian Lenihan.

Then, about 15 minutes later, Mr Reynolds re-appeared and was back chairing the meeting. He seemed in great form after his telephone call, and – almost as if talking to himself, or talking to nobody in particular – he said to all at the meeting: “That was Major on the line.” (I thought to myself: “Is he talking about Prime Minister John Major?”)

Next, he said: “He is coming over tomorrow for Anglo Irish Talks.” (I said to myself: “Yes, he is talking about John Major,” as the British delegation were due in Dublin Castle the following day to discuss Anglo Irish issues).

After those few words, the meeting resumed to its normal business and Mr Reynolds kept any further thoughts on the Anglo Irish meeting to himself. Of course, it was some time before we got a flavour of the interaction that took place between the Irish and British delegations at the meeting the following day, Friday, December 3, 1993. But we do know now that the meeting was an important step to securing the Downing Street Declaration and the subsequent ceasefires in August 1994.

I have often reflected on Mr Reynolds’s demeanour and mood that night. His body language reflected a man full of confidence, his voice was determined, he was focused and there was a glow of giddiness and excitement about him. He meant business. Mr Reynolds was a man with a mission that night.

Gearoid Lohan, Clane, Co Kildare

Was it my imagination or did I blink during the RTE live coverage of Albert Reynolds’s funeral and realise that no prominent member of the unionist/loyalist community came to Dublin to pay their respects?

What’s more, nobody in the print or broadcast media seems to have picked up on this or understood its relevance. One would have thought that unionists, who were key players at the time, might have at least made an appearance just to acknowledge that Mr Reynolds got the IRA to call a halt in August 1994, something no other political leader had achieved since 1969.

You might have thought that somebody would have acknowledged that there is relative “normality” in Northern Ireland these days, thanks, in the main, to one man? But no. The old saying is true that eaten bread is soon forgotten. What was once thought to be unimaginable is now, it appears, being taken for granted.

What’s more, there was practically no mention in the media of the fact that the National Treasury Management Agency was the brainchild of Mr Reynolds, itself something that was met with initial resistance in the Department of Finance. Things may be bad now, but only for the NTMA, they could be 50 times worse.

Ken Murray, Duleek, Co Meath

Albert Reynolds received a state funeral because he deserved it. Because it can truly be said that this man, ‘unlike the other one’, had done the State some service.

Paddy O’Brien, Balbriggan, Co Dublin

If the life, times and the death of Albert Reynolds shows one Irish trait at its best, it is that one never speaks well of the living – wait until they are dead. He was indeed a great man.

Aidan Hampson, Artane, Co Dublin

Blame Mayo/Kerry for replay

James Woods and Gerald Morgan (Irish Independent, Letters, August 26) take issue with the fact that the All-Ireland semi-final replay will be played in Limerick and not in Croke Park.

There are a few points to bear in mind. First, Kerry and Mayo each have themselves to blame for failing to win the All-Ireland semi-final when they each had the chance to do so. The point of a semi-final in football is to win the game, not to whinge about where any possible “replay” might be held.

Secondly, there were 30,000 empty seats on Sunday; for an All-Ireland semi-final, this would probably have been unheard of only a few years ago. Until the county teams can get their act together and get their supporters to travel to Croke Park to fill it (if such supporters even exist), the GAA cannot be blamed for trying to make up for the lack of regular ticket sales with other initiatives, such as an American football game.

Thirdly, it is worth noting that holding an American football match in Croke Park every year or so means a great deal to many members of the Irish-American diaspora, who relish the opportunity to travel to Ireland for it. We should welcome them, not insult them.

John B Reid, Monkstown, Co Dublin

Wake up to suffering

It is 100 years since World War I, but still the world is full of suffering. Why? Dysfunctional thinking? Living in our heads? Being controlled by our thinking? Can we change? Wake up? Become the present and come back to the here and now? Imagine if every human being could be still for a minute and become truly present and aware, we would stop creating suffering for that minute, irrespective of our views on religion, politics, land, human rights, etc. Before we change the world, we must change ourselves first. By waking up.

Ted Cronin, Tralee, Co Kerry

Anomaly in law not our making

In her article on the Rose of Tralee Festival (Irish Independent, August 25), Martina Devlin is a little harsh on Irish legislators. The bizarre fact that homosexuality was a crime while the law was silent on lesbianism was not the result of Irish legislation. The anomaly was contained in British laws, which still applied here after independence.

John F Jordan, Brussels, Belgium

Irish Independent


August 26, 2014

26 August 2014 Fall

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I sort out two wine bottle holders

Scrabble: I win, but get under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.

110 Games Mary win 58 John 54

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall


  1. s

Professor Andy MacMillan – obituary

Professor Andy MacMillan was an architect who introduced bold Modernist lines to Scottish churches and Oxbridge colleges

Andy MacMillan (left) and Isi Metzstein with their model of Robinson College, Cambridge

Andy MacMillan (left) and Isi Metzstein with their model of Robinson College, Cambridge Photo: Chris James/Epicscotland

7:13PM BST 24 Aug 2014


Professor Andy MacMillan, the Scottish architect, who has died aged 85, was, with Isi Metzstein, a member of one of the most influential architectural partnerships in Britain, working in the style of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright; however, their most famous work, St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross, Dunbartonshire, was once described as the place “where Modernism crawled up a hill to die”.

MacMillan and Metzstein worked together at the Glasgow firm of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, and later taught at the Mackintosh School of Architecture. In the 1950s they collaborated on the St Paul’s project at Glenrothes, Scotland’s second post-war New Town. Later they designed the library at Wadham College, Oxford; the halls of residence at the University of Hull; and the red-brick Robinson College at Cambridge, which in 1983 received an award for architectural excellence from the Royal Institute of British Architecture and in 2008 appeared in The Daily Telegraph’s top five “Most Inspiring Buildings in Britain”.

Andy MacMillan (KIERAN DODDS)

But St Peter’s Seminary, a three-storey concrete ziggurat on the banks of the Clyde, inspired by Corbusier’s chapel at Ronchamp and his monastery at La Tourette, was considered their masterpiece. Completed in 1966, it was designed with a sympathetic understanding of the ritualised nature of seminary life that was perhaps surprising in a lapsed Protestant (MacMillan) and a Jewish atheist (Metzstein).

Each of the activities that made up the trainee priest’s day was given its own setting — from a glass-sided refectory to an airy sky-lit chapel with a vast granite altar — providing an environment in which the choreography of Roman Catholic ritual could be performed in spiritually uplifting space and light.

The seminary won acclaim even from such traditionalist journals as Country Life for its design and fine workmanship (the interiors were panelled in solid wood, echoing the style of Charles Rennie Macintosh). It was voted Scotland’s best modern building by the architecture magazine Prospect, and in 1967 it won Gillespie, Kidd & Coia an award from RIBA. It was also one of only 42 post-war buildings in Scotland to be Grade A listed.

The outside of St Peter’s Seminary when it was first built

It also, however, attracted fierce criticism, which grew in volume as reports appeared of ill-fitting windows, door handles falling off, the chapel flooding and ominous creaks emanating from the beams that soared above the sanctuary.

Ultimately, though, it was the Second Vatican Council’s decision to train priests in local communities rather than at seminaries that proved its undoing. After just 14 years the seminary shut down, in 1980, and the building was subsequently abandoned to the elements and the vandals. Within a few years it was reduced to a graffiti-covered skeleton, named as one of the world’s most endangered sites by the World Monument Fund.

As Frank Arneil Walker put it in The Buildings of Scotland, “in little more than a generation, God, Le Corbusier and Scottish architecture have all been mocked”. MacMillan’s verdict was: “It’s terrible to live in a culture that can allow a building like that to be treated that way.”

Despite a number of proposals for reuse or renovation of the building, its future remains in doubt.

The interior of the abandoned St Peter’s Seminary in Cadross (ALAMY)

Andrew MacMillan was born prematurely on December 11 1928 in a tenement in the Maryhill district of Glasgow. His father, an unemployed railway clerk, improvised an incubator for his son, without which he probably would not have survived infancy.

At North Kelvinside Secondary School, MacMillan proved an able all-rounder and was entered for the “corporation exam” for an apprenticeship with Glasgow Corporation (now Glasgow City Council). He passed, and was interviewed by the chief architect and the chief surveyor. “The surveyor told me what a terrible job surveying is, so I chose architecture,” he recalled.

During his apprenticeship he took evening classes at Glasgow School of Art, where he met Isi Metzstein, then working as an apprentice at Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, one of Britain’s most respected architectural practices.

MacMillan worked for the corporation for seven years, and by the age of 20 was running his own projects: “I had five buildings for the corporation and 15 shopping centres. I worked on housing that varied from a prefabricated stone house to bog-standard tenements.”

He then spent two years with East Kilbride new town, but became increasingly frustrated by local government bureaucracy. In 1954, when Metzstein mentioned that there was a vacancy at Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, MacMillan jumped at the chance.

The practice had been founded in the 19th century, but from the 1930s its principal client had been the local Roman Catholic archdiocese. It had been built up by the firm’s partner Jack Coia, a devout Catholic who, before the arrival of his young protégés, designed decent but unadventurous churches along traditional lines.

Like many young architects of their generation, MacMillan and Metzstein were passionate converts to Modernism; and from 1957, when they effectively assumed creative control of the practice’s output, they began to produce an extraordinary string of Modernist buildings

Their first project, St Paul’s, Glenrothes, completed in 1957, was described as “the first modern church in Britain”. They went on to build 17 churches and chapels throughout central Scotland, following in the wake of new town development and urban housing schemes, culminating with the completion of the church of St Columba in East Kilbride in 1979. There were also the college buildings in Oxford and Cambridge, schools in Glasgow and Cumbernauld, and a maternity hospital in Bellshill.

But the churches were what they were known for. As Metzstein once explained, their aim was to “strip out the rubbish”, doing away with aisles, naves, columns and other gothic paraphernalia. Luckily the Church, itself undergoing a period of modernisation, seemed to like what they came up with.

Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein at one of their buildings, St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Kilsyth (KIERAN DODDS)

MacMillan became a partner of the firm in 1966 and served as Professor of Architecture at Glasgow University and head of the Mackintosh School of Architecture from 1973 to 1994. His teaching at the school with Metzstein, who died in 2012, was credited with making it one of the best architectural training establishments in the world.

In his later years MacMillan served on architectural judging panels and as a government adviser. He was a member of the Scottish Arts Council from 1978 to 1982, and a member of the panel that chose Enric Miralles’s design for the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh — a project that brought criticism from locals not only for its appearance (like “upturned boats”) but also for its spiralling cost.

In 2001 MacMillan caused a furore when he lashed out at those citizens of Edinburgh who did not appreciate the finer points of the building, declaring them introspective, ignorant, and “not cultured the way that Glasgow hooligans are cultured”.

“What’s the highlight of an Edinburgh businessman’s life?” he inquired sarcastically. “He gets to be made a member of the Royal Company of Archers. He gets to wear a funny hat and walk about with a bow and arrow — a businessman in the 21st century!”

Among many awards, MacMillan won the RIBA Award for Architecture on four occasions and the Royal Scottish Academy Gold Medal in 1975. He was appointed OBE in 1992.

At the time of his death he was vice-president of the Glasgow School of Art.

He is survived by his wife, Angela, and by their son and three daughters.

Professor Andy MacMillan, born December 11 1928, died August 16 2014


Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May leaves Downing Street in London

Mary Dejevsky’s sees double standards in the government’s proposals to deal with British Islamic State jihadis (May’s short memory, 25 August). But she sets up straw men as examples: there is no proposal to punish people just for travelling to Syria or Iraq, nor any presumption that those who do are jihadis. Even if, as she suggests, we are responsible for allowing extremism to fester, does that imply we should not react to the threat posed by these individuals’ return? Should we give murderers a pass for allowing them to get riled up in the UK?

Nor is it fair to suggest that the government tars all British Muslims with this brush. I can’t believe I’m defending this government. Let’s criticise it for its legion failings; making up new ones seems redundant.
Paul Smith

• Nobody has ever given an explanation of the difference between the “moderate” groups fighting in Syria and the “extremist” groups. Could anyone suggest which of the republican and loyalist terrorist groups fighting in Northern Ireland were “moderate” and which were “extremist”? But the moderate/extremist argument is used to justify the funding of terrorists because “we can’t stand back and allow these extremists to take over” type of argument. So we then support the Nato bombing of Libya that murdered thousands of civilians and levelled the city of Sirte in 2011, or the training and arming of the “moderate” groups who explode car bombs outside hospitals because allegedly the Syrian army were occupying the buildings.
Louis Shawcross
Hillsborough, County Down

• Your editorial (Lessons of failure, 25 August) eloquently catalogues the catastrophic consequences of successive governments’ interference in foreign conflicts, particularly those in the Middle East and north Africa. Well-intentioned but simplistic actions are usurped by power-hungry ideologues who readily recruit rudderless youth to be their cannon fodder. The editorial ends with a quote from Tony Blair that we would do well to restrict our actions to “what works”. Blair’s record in the Middle East is not a shining example and the question remains: what does work and how good is the supporting evidence?
Michael Kettlewell
Over Norton, Oxfordshire

• Under no circumstances should British Isis fighters have their citizenship removed (Report, 25 August). How do they differ in law from any other British mercenaries, such as those who fought for Ian Smith? Given the choice of a life of pointless harassment by jobcentres and a misguided but apparently “noble cause” in Iraq, it seems a no-brainer to me.
Ken Baldry

• To bar returning jihadis from entering Britain by revoking their passports is analogous to fly-tipping: refusing to deal with our own rubbish, not caring who is left with that unpleasant and potentially expensive task. That is why the EU is right to legislate against it in the interests of the community at large.
Herbert Munk

• The killing of James Foley was without doubt appalling and reprehensible. But what exactly are we supposed to find so horrendous that a coalition of western forces should descend upon the Middle East with the unattainable objective of restoring some kind of order acceptable to western interests?

Is it the fact that James Foley was beheaded? Hardly, since our ally Saudi Arabia has publicly beheaded 19 people this month, without western leaders making anything of this.

Perhaps then it is the killing of innocent journalists that is meant to provoke us into supporting military action? Hardly that either, since, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, US forces in Iraq killed 13 journalists in 2003-05 alone in ways that are thought to be non-accidental. I don’t recall any objections from Tony Blair.

The truth is we are being led into supporting another war; either for unstated reasons relating to oil and nefarious geostrategy, or in response to the inane call of the “something has to be done” brigade. The intervention being proposed ought to be as unpopular as the one that began in 2003, which lies at the root of the present predicament.
Steve Cox

• Why does “humanitarian aid” by Russia (Report, 23 August), albeit uninvited by Ukraine , draw “swift condemnation from US and European countries”, while the bombing of Isis-controlled Syria is contemplated by the US and other European countries without the need to even speak to the Syrian head of state?
Richard Bull
Woodbridge, Suffolk

GCSE Results Are Released In The UK

Peter Wilby is right that GCSE is no longer needed since education for all is being extended to age 18 (Report, 23 August). But beyond that, the whole structure of secondary education should be closely examined, with the dominance of academic subjects questioned and perhaps trade apprenticeships seen as worthwhile alternatives to university degrees for school leavers. The Tomlinson proposals, based on diplomas at the end of schooling, should be revisited.

But who is to do this? One legacy of the Gove years should be the recognition that responsibility for change in education should never be vested in one person. A national education council should be established, financed by but independent of government, with a balanced membership of teachers’ leaders, MPs, academics and other prominent members of society. It should be first charged to make recommendations on the restructuring of secondary education and to present these to parliament, via the secretary of state. The recent careful thought on the potential future for education expressed in the writings of academics like Peter Mortimore, Richard Pring, Chris Husbands, Michael Fielding, Frank Coffield, John Bangs and others, with the insights of the teacher unions and associations should underpin the thinking of such a council. Its second task should be to monitor such changes over the coming years and report to parliament, say every two years, on progress.
Professor Michael Bassey
Author of Education for the Inevitable

• The GCSE results did not end the gaming of qualifications as Michael Gove planned. They showed a more odious form of gaming is operating, manipulation by league tables. The drop in multiple entries is down to making only the first entry counts, so students cannot resit. The chance to resit is a basic right which applies in the driving test. If failure on the first test meant the driver was unable to do it again, many people would be unable to drive. In any test the relevant issue is whether the standard has been reached, and to deny GCSE students the right to do this is clearly a cap on aspiration.

We need an urgent reversal of policy, especially with GCSE English results dropping. English GCSE is required for many jobs and most university courses. Many A-level courses in fact demand a grade B in English. So there can be no acceptance of 16-year-olds failing in this subject. The sixth forms will have to provide remedial classes, and resits will have to take place irrespective of the ban on resits. If not, then students are going to have their futures blighted merely by a change in exam reporting.
Trevor Fisher

• Alison Wolf’s celebration of outlawing less academic “equivalents” to GCSE underlines her lack of understanding (All hail the new GCSEs, 19 August). I meet ex-students who smile ruefully, say “school wasn’t for me” and then detail their successful career – as a plumber, nurse or electrician. We should be ashamed as a nation that people leave school thinking it wasn’t for them. Surely the point of vocational education is that it reaches those an academic education does not reach. Any further review of our education system should start with delivering the basics of literacy and numeracy and then produce as diverse a range of courses as there are students to study them.
Nicky Campbell
Macclesfield, Cheshire

• When even your own education correspondents refer to the “pass rate” for English being 61.7% (Report, 22 August), is it any wonder that students who achieve D, E, F and G grades are feeling the pain? These, too, are pass rates, fantastic achievements for some whose gifts may lie elsewhere, often undiscovered due to the pressure of those damned performance tables. An F is not a fail.
Ruth Eversley
Paulton, Somerset

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond

Some readers (Letters, 25 August) may need reminding that in the UK we do not make our laws or supervise our public servants by public outcry, taking heed of the latest or largest crowd of demonstrators. We recognise that such crowds are never more than a tiny and unrepresentative proportion of the general population.

We elect local representatives who can study issues in depth and come to reasoned conclusions. If they turn out to be corrupt or lazy or put in place policies they promised not to (that’s you, Mr C) we can vote them out next time. Supported by a strong judiciary, this works, in the long run, to everyone’s benefit – even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment for many disabled people, for example. Or some Scots, maybe.

Having Scottish, English and Welsh parliaments in whatever format only makes decision-making more remote. For people in Inverness, the Edinburgh parliament is no closer than Westminster. For people in Leeds a Yorkshire parliament would still feel remote. And each layer of parliaments puts the population one more step away from the real decision-making, which will always be in London and Brussels. If the EU has a democratic deficit now, a faux federal structure for the UK would create a similar deficit at the UK level.

Localism is a mirage. It works for Alex Salmond because he can play at being a big fish in a small pond. For the rest of us the need is for reinforced MPs at Westminster. I expect my MP, who represents South Cambridgeshire, to understand that the prosperity and happiness of the people of Perth (or Penzance or Portrush or Pontypool) is as important to my family’s prosperity and happiness as those of people two villages away.
David Sands
Royston, Hertfordshire

• Under Article 15 of the Act of Union 1707, Scotland was granted £398,085 10s formally to offset future liability for future English national debt, informally to reimburse the Scots elite for the botched New Caledonian scheme. If Scotland votes for independence, can we have a refund? The economists can adjust for inflation.
Hugh Smith

shadow of hand over a pile of GBP banknotes

We share the concerns about the introduction of fees to take cases to employment tribunals and the barrier to justice this will create (Report, 18 August). Even before fees came in, it was often incredibly hard for victims to get justice and we fear it has become harder, enabling more bad employers to get away with breaking the law. ATL fully supported and funded one of the cases you referred to, that of Rebecca Raven, a teacher who was dismissed when she became pregnant. Regrettably, we are still having to pursue the owners of the school concerned for the payment she was awarded at a tribunal in September 2012 for discrimination and unfair dismissal. Her employers, who intimated that maternity leave was bad for business, have so far not paid a penny.

While Rebecca’s case was lodged before the introduction of fees, ATL will continue to pay the fees for all members whose cases we take to tribunal, in common with other unions. We will keep arguing against fees, but such cases show why it is so important for workers to belong to trade unions if they are to stand any chance of getting access to justice following the changes the coalition government introduced.
Andy Peart
Assistant general secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

bride and groom bridal flowers top hat and tails

Your correspondent (Letters, 22 August) appears to be unaware that, since the year 2000, the Church of England marriage ceremony gives the minister the option of addressing the parents of both bride and groom with the following words: “N and N have declared their intention towards each other. As their parents, will you now entrust your son and daughter to one another as they come to be married?” To which they are expected to reply: “We will.”

While I give every couple this option, in my experience the majority are still enthralled by traditionalism and prefer to be given away by their fathers.
Anne Spargo
Priest-in-charge of the Severnside Benefice of Churches, Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire

• Adrian Smith’s delight at having his wife included when answering the question “who gives this woman?” at his daughter’s wedding would have been more impressive if he had eschewed the whole ridiculous business of a bride being “given away”. Daughters should rebel at being hawked around from parent to groom like some sort of frothy present. If they’re grown-up enough to get married, they’re grown-up enough not to be regarded as a chattel.
Charlotte Hofton
Ryde, Isle of Wight

• Dr Barbara Wilson and her husband Mike must feel disappointed that their story, due to a production error, was omitted from your feature (The secrets of long-term love, Weekend, 23 August) – but I did catch up with them in the online version.

Perhaps you could squeeze them in sometime in place of Blind date. Yes, I know it makes compulsive reading, but all these chaste “pecks on the cheek” do get a bit monotonous. Don’t they ever end up in bed together or, more acceptably, in a long-term relationship with each other?
Phoebe Newton
Northallerton, North Yorkshire


Your feature on England’s new coastal access (Travel, 23 August) underplays the achievement by merely referring to it as a coastal path. The whole point of England’s coastal access is that it provides spreading room, where the public has the right to walk, between the path and the sea and inland to the first boundary. The Welsh coastal path, although brilliant, is only a route; there is no spreading room.
Kate Ashbrook
The Open Spaces Society

• So Shetland is “nearby” to Orkney (Report, 21 August)? Can I assume that the Guardian style guide will now require Birmingham and Bristol to be described as “nearby” to London, since both involve similar distances? Although I note that public transport between Orkney and Shetland is much trickier than between London and either of those cities. And some in Shetland might remind you that they are nearer Norway than Edinburgh.
Dudley Coates
Gillingham, Dorset

• Reassuring to hear (Letters, 20 August) that an Indian fungus is about to be unleashed on the dreaded Himalayan balsam. Could it also have a go at the allegedly Himalayan rose-ringed parakeet? This squawking, screeching, braying, mob-handed, flash city-boy of a bird (they all vote Tory) has become so common in this area that Wikipedia refers to them as Kingston Parakeets.
Mike Hine
Kingston on Thames, Surrey

• Bárðarbunga about to erupt (Passnotes, 20 August). Berlusconi up to his tricks again?
Robert Walls
Camberley, Surrey

• My eight-year-old daughter, Gráinne, swims in the Irish Sea almost daily from late March to early October. She describes David Cameron’s choice of swimwear as “a wimpsuit” (Photo story, 23 August).
Cian Molloy

“Turner and Constable: A rivalry resumed, but who is best?” (Front page trail, 25 August). Really? Don’t we deserve better?
Brian Lawrence
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire



Matthew Parris asked whether the vehemence of online postings is fuelling extremism

Sir, Credit to Matthew Parris (“Don’t lump all Muslims in the extremist camp”, Aug 23) for stating the truth that has dared not speak its name. Anti-Islam is every bit as insidious and frightening as
antisemitism has been for centuries. Hatred of a seventh of the world’s people is one of the few ideologies found in equal measure within left, right, educated, uneducated, liberal, illiberal, rich and poor; and mass graves and gas chambers stand as a warning to those who cannot heed the lessons of history of which Mr Parris wisely reminds them.

James Abdul Rahman Brierley

Knighton, Leicester

Sir, Mr Parris’s article is absolutely correct that it is wrong to regard all Muslims as extremists. However, the interpretation and practice of Islam has clearly become perverted by some of its adherents. Surely the mass of mainstream Muslims have a responsibility to try to make their extremist co-religionists “righteous” too.

David Levy

London N3

Sir, Matthew Parris’s argument is flawed. Jews do not seek world domination. The Jewish diaspora has no desire to convert humanity to Judaism. Jews do not seek to proselytise by subjugation and violence. Muslims seek the creation of a single world ummah which will replace Christianity (and all other faiths and philosophies), political democracy and economic capitalism with Sharia. Most Muslims live peaceably enough in western countries influenced by centuries of Christianity, but they are bound to pray for the ultimate Muslim victory over all infidels.

Politicians and governments cannot defeat Muslim global ambition piecemeal. Legislation will do little to help. The non-specific geographical battle is not primarily about guns as yet but about ideas. British society, apostate from Christianity, lacks vision, cohesion and purpose. Instead of offering feeble and miserable platitudes, Britain’s Christian leaders should have the courage to refute Islam’s ideology and claims.

The Rev Dr Robert Anderson

Blackburn, W Lothian

Sir, Matthew Parris says he does not like Islam or Judaism. Perhaps he should extend this dislike to all religions that begin with a capital letter. To paraphrase Krishnamurti, any rigid belief system rules out the infinity of ideas and beliefs beyond that system. Or maybe Mr Parris should reflect that people, not religions, are the problem.

Graham Weiner

London N10

Sir, Matthew Parris is clearly right that stigmatising all Muslims in the UK is absurd but his substitution of Jews for Muslims is absurd since Jews never ever engaged in anti-regime wars, mass kidnappings of young women, televised beheadings of westerners, campaigns to change our diet and way of life, and so on.

Professor Yorick Wilks


Sir, Matthew Parris rightly defends ordinary Muslims but misses the opportunity to comment on one monstrous issue. Islamic leaders have been quick to declare fatwas against westerners they consider have been disrespectful of their religion but they are silent as barbarous extremists tear its reputation to shreds.

Brian Parker


Turnout for PCC elections might be higher if e-voting was treated as a serious option

Sir, The new police commissioner for the West Midlands was elected by only 5 per cent of the electorate and at a cost of £18 per vote (“Low turnout in police vote costs £3.7m”, Aug 23). The Electoral Reform Society called it “a very depressing turnout”. One possible cause was holding the poll in the holidays. The government should grasp the nettle of e-voting to encourage greater participation in the democratic process. We are expected to submit tax returns even from sunloungers abroad, so why not let us vote from them as well?

Peter Saunders


Rome airport has solar panels over its carparks – a win-win notion

Sir, I was most impressed by an Italian version of the solar farm. The huge car-parks at Rome airport are covered with roofed carports bearing solar panels. These generate solar power while keeping the cars in shade, so drivers returning to their cars do not need to add to fuel pollution by turning the air-conditioning to its top setting. Many UK regional airports could do this; acres of sprawling panels are no worse than acres of parked cars.

Joanne Aston

Over Silton, N Yorks

Are there lessons for today to be learnt from the history of British foreign policy?

Sir, I am delighted to see my friend and former pupil Philip Bobbitt up there with Gladstone and Palmerston (Aug 25), but he never prescribed western-style democracy as “a prerequisite to peace and reform in the Middle East”. What he did prescribe were “states of consent” which were not necessarily western-style democracies, but would, by legitimising their regimes, provide the only effective barriers against the “states of terror” that — he foresaw with terrifying accuracy — were likely to develop in the Middle East and across the whole world. Any resemblance to the policy of Neville Chamberlain is very hard to detect.

Sir Michael Howard

Eastbury, Berks


The bells that ring the changes every few weeks

Dutch bells that don’t get boring

The carillon in the tower of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, overlooks the Prinsengracht below  Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 25 Aug 2014


SIR – I too enjoy tuneful church bells (Letters, August 21). For the past 18 months my wife and I have lived near to the Westerkerk, one of the major churches in the centre of Amsterdam. Its bells also ring out every 15 minutes, but the tune changes every three months or so. To date we have enjoyed, among others, Dvorak’s New World Symphony and the theme to the classic John Wayne western, The Alamo.

David Rendell

Home, but not alone: Sandra Howard cooks Lord Howard lunch Photo: PA

6:59AM BST 25 Aug 2014


SIR – Fortunately, I do not suffer from retired husband syndrome. My nearly-but-not-quite retired husband has worked part-time from home from some years, but come 1pm he is transformed into my short-order chef, scouring the fridge for leftovers and creating tasty (and sometimes unusual) light lunches. Mind you, it usually falls to me to wash up.

Hilary Jarrett

SIR – Before my husband’s recent retirement I wrote a job description for the Newly Retired Husband. All is well so far, with his first appraisal due at the end of this month.

Angela Crossley
Semington, Wiltshire

SIR – My husband retired recently, aged 57. His regular hobbies include snowboarding, ice and rock climbing, mountain and road biking, scuba diving, motorcycling and golf. One would think this is a full schedule of activities but, alas, no.

For inexplicable reasons he has developed an obsession with light bulbs and lighting. Every week or so he declares that the entire house should be lit by LED bulbs; I always agree. He then calculates the cost of replacements, has a small rant about how expensive it will be, then goes quiet about it until the next time.

Lisa Armstrong

SIR – My husband is now telling me how unselfish he is being by spending most of the summer months out umpiring cricket, so that he is not “under my feet” at home.

Barbara A Southward
Southend-on-Sea, Essex

SIR – Mariella Frostrup had a successful holiday by replacing her otherwise engaged husband with her friend’s boyfriend. I’m busy compiling a list of men-friends for my wife, whose skills around the house and garden far exceed mine. But when my wife’s friends run up their own lists, my name will be likely absent from all of them. Surely someone has use of a man interested in American politics and the theory of numbers?

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

‘Physician associates’

SIR – It is ridiculous to give two years’ training to science graduates and expect them as “physician associates” to be capable of doing what is essentially the job of a junior doctor. It is an insult to those who do the full seven years of training.

Patient safety stands to be compromised and the salaries mentioned are in excess of what is currently paid to our fully trained nurses. This is yet another example of the erosion of high-quality care in the NHS.

Dr Pat Simpson
Buckshaw Village, Lancashire

SIR – On the one hand, the General Medical Council is to take stronger action against poorly performing doctors, and on the other, the Government proposes to inflict half-trained quacks on the public.

The latter policy is hardly likely to increase confidence in the provision of family medicine. It would be much better to spend the money on health education for all, to stop GPs and A&E departments being overrun with trivial cases.

David Nunn FRCS
London SE3

GCSE results

SIR – Although I can understand their disappointment at the fall in English grades, as reported, I would not have expected headteachers of all people, when being asked for their comments, to refer to their pupils as “kids”.

G W Baker

SIR – Is it not perverse that we are now celebrating the fact that GCSE results have got significantly worse?

Paul Strong
Claxby, Lincolnshire

Prisoner humiliation

SIR – Andy Coulson has been resident in Britain’s highest-security prison, Belmarsh, for the past six weeks and Max Clifford was publicly handcuffed to a prison officer while attending the funeral of his brother.

In neither case could the person be deemed to present a high risk. The aim of imprisonment is well known, but humiliation and unnecessary restrictions should play no part in the treatment of prisoners.

Howard Thomas
(Chief probation officer, North Wales, 1986-97)
Nannerch, Flintshire

Sucks twice as much

SIR – If Seamus Hamill-Keays (Letters, August 23) has to use his vacuum cleaner for twice as much time, then he will have to replace it twice as often. Perhaps this is the true purpose of the EU legislation – to provide employment for vacuum cleaner manufacturers. Who is going to tell Brussels that most of these appliances are now made in the Far East ?

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

Chill out

SIR – At Asda in Kendal there is no need for signs requesting shoppers to be fully clothed (Letters, August 22). I have to put an extra layer on before entering in order to survive the refrigerated section. Recently I heard a mother explaining to her child that they would have to be “very brave” as they were going into the chilled section.

Never has the balmy tinned-goods aisle seemed so alluring.

Fiona Boyles
Dent, West Yorkshire

‘Middle-skilled’ jobs

SIR – Your report highlighted how Britain is competing, and succeeding, on the international stage to produce people with degree-level skills.

The article also alludes to the long-term trend in Britain towards an “hourglass-shaped” jobs market. We are generating lots of highly skilled management and professional jobs and lots of lower-skilled jobs, for example in care or hospitality, but fewer traditional “middle-skilled” jobs, as these are being automated or off-shored.

This “pinch point” risks creating obstacles to social mobility. As your article says, if the trend continues, there will be less opportunity for lower-skilled workers to progress. This makes the central social purpose of the workplace – to help people get on in life – more difficult to realise.

Given that 80 per cent of those who will make up the workforce in a decade’s time are already in employment, we need different approaches – to education, to technology and to the structure of our organisations and the jobs within them – to build an economy that is more productive and inclusive. For a start, we need greater connectivity between education and the world of work so that young people, workers and workplaces become more agile in response to faster technological cycles and competition from a global labour market.

Sir Charlie Mayfield
Chair, John Lewis Partnership; Chair, UK Commission for Employment and Skills
London SW1

Clerk’s appointment

SIR – The House of Commons Clerk (Letters, August 23) is a servant of the House, and is an appointment that should be made by the Commons as a House, not by the Speaker alone.

The Commons is supposed to be paramount. It should act accordingly.

Philip Thomas
Poling, West Sussex

Proof of proposal

SIR – Sarah Rainey’s piece on the camera that films the moment a suitor proposes prompted me to recall the afternoon, 54 years ago, when my boyfriend telephoned from abroad to propose to me. I was so surprised (though absolutely delighted) that I asked him to put it in writing, which he did.

Having recently found the letter, I now carry a photocopy of it in my handbag.

Freda Poole
Farley Hill, Berkshire

Theresa May should reassure the public that her proposals will turn into action

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says that at least 500 British citizens have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says that at least 500 British citizens have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq Photo: GEOFF PUGH

7:00AM BST 25 Aug 2014


SIR – The proposals by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to bring in new laws to deal with the jihadist threat are to be welcomed. But what I want to hear is a clear declaration that laws are actually being drafted, when they will come before Parliament and when they are likely to become law. Time is not to be lost in the pre-election vacuum, as some of these British jihadists may be returning soon.

Laurence Barnes
Downderry, Cornwall

SIR – Your leading article rightly highlights the complications of dealing with British citizens who hate their homeland. However, could someone explain why the charge of treason is not being invoked for those British citizens who are committed to its destruction?

Andre Adamson
West Byfleet, Surrey

SIR – Theresa May’s proposed legislation is a welcome but reactive measure. It would be better to identify potential terrorists in Britain before it is too late. Police officers patrolling streets and engaging with families, and more importantly, schools and faith groups, would help achieve this.

The Home Secretary had this in place with neighbourhood policing teams, but budget cuts in excess of 25 per cent have led to to the loss of thousands of police officers and the decimation of these highly effective teams.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

SIR – The world is rightly horrified at the killing of James Foley. Yet the execution of more than 800 political opponents in Iran since the “moderate” Hassan Rouhani became president draws no comment.

Now we learn that the West may seek to befriend his government. A policy of appeasement would be disastrous, not only for Iranians but the whole world.

Betty Harris
London N1

SIR – Never has the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” been more apposite than in the case of the Syrian regime today.

Quiet diplomacy must be conducted with President Bashar al-Assad to permit Western air power to be deployed on Syrian soil in order to provide effective and sustained air support to those ground forces opposed to Isil. Time is of the essence.

Brigadier John Dean (retd)
Bridport, Dorset

SIR – There has been recent speculation about supporting President Assad in Syria because he is now fighting Isil. But remember that his regime tortures and kills thousands of Syrians every year, war or no war, and that Syria under the Assads has invaded its neighbours and supplied weapons to terrorist groups to attack Israel.

Assad is no friend of the West and never will be.

Justin G Taylor
Preston, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – There is something rather obnoxious about the phenomenon of letters to the editor that are signed by a list of academics, as was to be seen in your edition of August 23rd, where 102 academics signed a letter demanding a referendum on abolishing the Eighth Amendment to our Constitution. Is this a case of academics overestimating the respect in which they are held by the population at large, who are well aware of their vulnerability to intellectual and political fashions? Or does it simply take 102 to compose one letter?

Let’s concentrate on arguments, not on letters after a name. – Yours, etc,



Sillogue Gardens,

Ballymun, Dublin 11.

Sir, – While it is decidedly impressive that 102 academics can agree on something, this is not in itself a decisive argument. The group make a good point in saying they are under 50 and haven’t had the opportunity to vote on abortion: it can certainly be argued that the issue is more pressing for the young, and that the youth of today deserve their say. They also show compassion for the distress the issue has caused the many, many women suffering the brunt of our laws prohibiting abortion, adding an important and poignant reason for holding another referendum.

Unfortunately the core argument they put forward to support abortion is flawed. Basing the right to abortion on the right of a woman to make decisions about her body overlooks a key fact about pregnancy, which is that the foetus is not the woman’s body. We can’t see it without the benefit of technology, and it lives inside the woman’s body, placing a severe burden upon her, but it exists as a distinct biological entity. An argument for abortion must deal with the potential rights for this entity. That is not to say that an embryo or foetus should have the full rights of a person; just that if we are making an argument for terminating the unborn we should take some account of its existence. If it is believed that the foetus should have no human rights, then this should be stated, and an argument made to support the contention. A society should choose its ethical position on the right to life with its eyes fully open. If we ignore the issues, we haven’t made our case, no matter how long the parade of academics. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,

Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The letter signed by 102 academics arguing in favour of the “pro-choice” position on the abortion issue should not be misinterpreted to mean that academics generally agree with this argument. Indeed I do not know how academics would divide on this issue but I do know that it would not be difficult to get 102 academic signatures to a letter supporting the “pro-life” side of the argument. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor,

School of Biochemistry

and Cell Biology,

University College Cork.

A chara, – The slightly more than “100 academics” who signed the letter carried in these pages on August 23rd calling for a referendum to appeal the Eighth Amendment have an interesting idea of what a “mandate” is. A mandate is something granted by the people of the nation to their elected representatives on the basis of the manifesto on which they campaigned. It not something created by a self-selected group of people by virtue of their co-signing a letter, even if they happen to have graduate degrees. Galling for them, no doubt, but that’s democracy for you. And why, might one ask, does it happen that the majority of signatories are resident outside this jurisdiction? Are we to gather from this that, out of the thousands of academics living and working in the Republic, they could barely round up 50 to declare the existence of this “mandate” and needed to go outside our borders to bolster the numbers? Not very impressive when one notes that, even then, they could hardly break three figures.

But it doesn’t really matter if their letter was signed by one, one hundred, or a thousand; it still doesn’t manufacture a mandate for a referendum. That requires an election during which politicians are elected, or not, on the basis of their declared stance on the matter. And during that election each of those academics who signed will get exactly one vote each just like everybody else, presuming they happen to be in the country at the time and are eligible to vote.

It might be hard for some with many degrees to accept the idea that their voice or vote is no stronger than those who never finished school, but such is the way of things unless they can manage to swing a constitutional amendment of an entirely different type. I wish them luck trying. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Henry McClave takes me to task (August 23rd) for daring to question the motives of a vocal minority who oppose the development of tourism and amenity infrastructure along the river Barrow. In the interests of fairness, I need to correct his contention that I objected to the notion of a grassy footpath along the banks of the river. I never suggested that.

The banks of the Barrow are about 10 metres wide, sometimes wider, and providing a narrow, grit-surfaced two metre-wide strip on one bank will still leave lots of room for people who prefer to walk on grass. There is, it would seem, no real conflict between my aspirations for the route and those of your correspondent.

I would also agree with him on another thing; the section between Graiguenamanagh and St Mullins is the best of the Barrow Way, but the more you go north of Graiguenamanagh, the worse it gets. While it is reasonably passable for well-shod walkers, it certainly isn’t suitable for cyclists, and you couldn’t put a buggy or a wheelchair anywhere on it.

My issue is with those who would seek to block or delay the provision of the kind of infrastructure that is the norm in other countries, the countries that enjoy a booming trade in cycling and walking tourism. By our policy of not providing long routes for this highly sustainable business, we allow this trade and the jobs that go with it to go elsewhere.

We have a short greenway in Mayo that is enough to keep an average cyclist happy for half a day, but nobody is going to spend a week cycling up and down it like a hamster in a wheel.

As your other correspondent Seamus Lennon pointed out on the same page, we need long trails to attract and sustain this business, but the only way we can create these is on strips of publicly owned land. Canal and river navigation towpaths and disused rail lines are assets that we haven’t yet learned to leverage to create jobs and opportunities, as well as providing a better quality of life for our citizens. We need to play catch-up. – Yours, etc,




Co Roscommon.

Sir, – As a regular walker of the towpaths of Irish waterways, I write in support of the observations by John Mulligan (August 21st) and Denis Bergin (August 22nd).

The Barrow Navigation south of Goresbridge to St Mullins is by far the prettiest waterway in the country. The topography of the valley guarantees that the cycle path will be narrow and the impact on both visual amenity and wild life minimal.

This towpath is also likely to be highly successful, and bring some business and liveliness along the waterway to the towns of Monasterevin, Athy and Graiguenamanagh.

On the waterways in general, there is a need for tighter planning requirements. A large house built in recent years with a long retaining wall fronting the towpath on an unspoiled vista several miles south of Carlow town, or two bloated residences one or two miles apart on what is historically the most evocative section of the Newry canal, are disturbing instances of the need for greater awareness by planning authorities. – Yours, etc,


Sydney Avenue,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – As a retired Deis school principal, I commend Alison Healy for her article “More children arriving in school hungry, survey of teachers finds” (Home News, August 25th).

I have written to The Irish Times previously on this issue and I believe that it is something that must be addressed urgently.

There is a wonderful scheme administered by the Department of Social Protection called the School Meals Scheme. It funds certain schools to provide breakfasts, lunches and snacks to their pupils. While I was principal, I found this scheme to be invaluable. The positive outcomes for children in such areas as discipline, attendance and educational development were hugely enhanced by the provision of a healthy, nutritious and daily lunch.

I have written to Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton on many occasions in praise of this scheme. However there are many schools that have huge food poverty issues that are not included in the scheme. I would respectfully urge the Government, and in particular Ms Burton, to review the School Meals Scheme with a view to expanding it to include those needy children. I know that this is an issue that is close to the Minister’s heart and it would be money very well spent. Our children are the future for this great country. Let’s make sure that they are well nourished in school and allow them to give of their best. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – I was confused by the assertion in your editorial (“Renewing rural Ireland”, August 20th) that directing the majority of rural development funding under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to farmers is a mistake and could undermine rural prosperity and employment.

Agriculture is the predominant rural industry; to take funding away from a farming sector that is already under severe financial pressure would lead to a grave deterioration in the rural economy, and certainly not an improvement.

The objective of the Rural Development Programme allocated under the CAP is to improve the economic and social situation of all rural areas.

Agriculture is the backbone industry of the rural economy and directing funding towards farming enterprises in order to meet that objective makes perfect sense.

The resourcing of agriculture through the Rural Development Programme funding pays dividends not just for farmers but for economic activity across rural Ireland.

Over 300,000 people are employed directly on farms or indirectly in the agri-food industry throughout Ireland, while the industry contributes approximately €24 billion to the national economy.

A buoyant and sustainable agriculture sector, and a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, will drive a regionally balanced economic recovery. Towns are the traditional centres of economic activity in rural Ireland, but farming and the agri-industry based in and around those towns have always driven and sustained that economic activity. They must be supported to continue to do so. – Yours, etc,


IFA National Rural

Development Chairman,

Kilowen House,


Co Kerry.

Sir, – I read with interest the 34 recommendations by the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (“34 ways to improve rural life”, August 23rd).

May I suggest a 35th? Establish a responsible and strategic delivery for a co-ordinated and accountable mechanism that would implement capacity-building within a regulatory and administrative framework in order for the continuation of a community-led developmental approach with the potential to open up economic and proportionate frameworks, along with a multi-agency approach to further develop public policy instruments that would highlight a clear national definition.

I could add a couple more but I have to pop out and milk the goats. – Yours, etc,




Co Clare.

Sir, – While Educate Together is delighted that the opening of our first second-level schools is getting such positive coverage from The Irish Times, we would like to make a couple of clarifications in relation to “Educate Together secondary school opens” (August 23rd).

You state that “Educate Together plans to open 10 schools . . . over the next decade in the east of the country, where demand is greatest”. Educate Together is currently opening eight secondary schools in the next two years. In 2016, we will open a secondary in Carrigaline and we also have a vibrant campaign group in Galway that has been working tirelessly on this issue for many years.

Widespread demand for our model of education is evident in all parts of the country. For instance, next week we are opening new primary schools in the Galway suburb of Knocknacarra, in Newtownwhite in Co Mayo, in Tramore and in Trim. Only two of the six new Educate Together primary schools are in the Dublin area.

The article also states that “the demand for Educate Together schools is greatest in areas where there is ethnic diversity”. While we have many excellent schools in very diverse communities, the reality is that the Educate Together schools with the longest waiting lists are in very established areas – in Glenageary, Glasnevin, Bray, Kilkenny, Ranelagh. This year we are setting up a new school for Dublin 4 with two full classes of junior infants, the Shellybanks Educate Together National School.

The demand for Educate Together schools comes mainly from a generation on generation change of attitude within the indigenous population that is being augmented by the needs of migrant families. Parents all over the country are increasingly seeing the benefit of their children being taught in an ethos of equality and respect that suits the needs of a modern, democratic Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Educate Together,

Hogan Place,

Sir, – Should Dublin and Donegal play out a draw in next Sunday’s second All-Ireland football semi-final, can the GAA confirm that the replay will be held in St Tiarnach’s Park, Clones, or Breffni Park, Cavan?

Answers on the back of an unused Garth Brooks ticket, please. – Yours, etc,


Trinity Gardens,

Drogheda, Co Louth.

Sir, – I imagine that the Taoiseach must be inspired and frustrated in equal measure by Mayo’s brilliant comeback in the second half of the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry at Croke Park.

But what an anti-climax to schedule the replay in Limerick and with so brief a respite for the exhausted players. This is an amateur game after all.

But those running affairs at Croke Park have surely taken their eye off the ball and deserve a yellow if not a red card for the extraordinary decision not to reschedule the replay in Croke Park itself, especially when the capacity at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick is only 49,866, over 2,000 short of the attendance for the drawn match.

In my view this situation is much worse than the Garth Brooks fiasco, for the All-Ireland championship is the very raison d’être of Croke Park.

No commercial arrangement can be allowed to downgrade the national importance of the All-Ireland championship. – Yours, etc,



The Chaucer Hub,

Trinity College, Dublin 2.

Sir, – Janneke van Veen (August 23rd) states that 500 million people voted in the European Parliament elections in 2014. That is incorrect. The total population of the EU is approximately 500 million. Of those approximately 390 million are registered to vote. Data available from the European Parliament shows that 42.5 per cent of registered voters actually did so in 2014. This leaves a total turnout of approximately 166 million. In every European Parliament election since its foundation the percentage of voter turnout has declined. – Yours, etc,


Annville Drive,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Arminta Wallace (“The times we lived in”, Magazine, August 23rd) states that WT Cosgrave was “the first leader of Fine Gael and the first president of Ireland”. Douglas Hyde was the first president of Ireland and Eoin O’Duffy was the first leader of Fine Gael. Interestingly, O’Duffy is conspicuous by his absence from the photographs of former Fine Gael leaders in the party meeting room in Leinster House. – Yours, etc,



Douglas Road, Cork.

Irish Independent:

Some of the greatest evils spring from recruiting God exclusively to one’s side. The claim to have unique access to God’s intentions for the world leads inevitably to arrogance and fanaticism. What is happening in Iraq has its provenance in this kind of thinking.

As the surge of evil gathers momentum across the Middle East and North Africa, we begin to see how warped minds reach for every available instrument of terror – all in the name of God – driven by a delusional ideology that seizes the imagination, festers within communities, and offers the certainty of a place in heaven.

This gives young men a narcissistic sense of significance – a chance to be a somebody and a maker of the world.

To demand that people who do not share your faith relinquish theirs or die takes arrogance and inhumanity to a new level.

The massacre of 80 Yazidis, followers of one of the oldest monotheistic religions, as they refused to convert to Islam, and the unspeakable depravity of the murder of James Foley should awaken the world to the threat to human freedom and disregard for innocent life represented by the Islamic State fanatics.

The fanatical practice of religion has of course been well matched by the barbarity of atheistic communism, particularly under Stalin and Pol Pot. But the smugness accompanying dogmatic certainty, underpinned by the unaccountable exercise of power, can only be punctured by dialogue and reflection. Unfortunately, this is in short supply when you presume to be acting on behalf of God or engaged in the creation of a new utopia.

We do not need to look beyond the recent history of our own island to see the consequences of the arrogance of power and the mindless drift into indiscriminate killing and bombing, carried out as if it is almost recreational.

Philip O’Neill, Oxford, England


Rail staff – time for reality check

Severe traffic congestion in wet, miserable weather and gross personal inconvenience inflicted on tens of thousands of locals and tourists are unlikely to inspire much public sympathy for the cause of striking rail workers.

Rail workers may believe they are supremely useful and that the country would somehow fall asunder without them.

But the number of journeys reported by Irish Rail has dropped by over 15pc, from 43.3 million in 2008, to under 37 million last year. During this period the average rail fare increased by a hefty 12pc, from €4.31 to €4.82, while the net increase in the consumer price index was just 3.4pc.

When compared with other options – a bus, bicycle, or car – rail journeys are simply not considered good value.

The arguments advanced to justify this strike are reminiscent of the process of collective self-hypnosis, by which hereditary aristocrats attempted to convince the public over a hundred years ago that their distinctive claims on caste survival made them indispensable.

If the strikers participating in this ritual of rebellion fail to take a reality check on the limits of public tolerance, the railways may well be brushed aside like the hereditary peerage – or privatised – because neither taxpayers nor the travelling public will be blackmailed.

Myles Duffy, Glenageary, Co Dublin


All-Ireland replay a fiasco

I imagine the Taoiseach must be inspired and frustrated in equal measure by Mayo’s brilliant comeback in the second half of the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday.

But what an anti-climax to schedule the replay in Limerick and with so brief a respite for the exhausted players.

This is an amateur game, after all. But those running affairs at Croke Park have surely taken their eye off the ball and deserve a yellow – if not a red – card for the extraordinary decision not to reschedule the replay in Croke Park itself, especially when the capacity at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick is only 49,866; over 2,000 short of the attendance at Croke Park last Sunday.

This situation is much worse than the Garth Brooks fiasco, for the All-Ireland Championship is the very raison d’etre of Croke Park.

No commercial arrangement can be allowed to downgrade the national importance of the All-Ireland final.

Gerald Morgan, Trinity College, Dublin 2

The semi-final between Mayo and Kerry was what Gaelic football should be all about.

Certainly, the first half was nothing to write home about, with both teams retreating into the bunker at any sign of danger.

But the second half made up for it with robust, manly tackles, where there were no prisoners taken on the field of play, people jumping for joy one minute and praying for divine intervention the next.

The icing on the cake for those like me, with no county allegiances, 
is that it has to happen all over 

But we are left with the strange scenario on Saturday of this much anticipated semi-final replay playing second fiddle to the side show of American football in Croke 
Park (it could have been Garth Brooks).

It’s a sad state of affairs when Gaelic football has been demoted, with fans having to travel to Limerick for the rematch (no disrespect to Limerick).

It’s not the end of the world, but it does matter. Croke Park was built to facilitate the playing of an amateur game that gave hope to a downtrodden people in years gone by.

What message does this send out to the thousands who commit their time, voluntarily, week in, week out, year after year?

This All-Ireland replay should be taking place in Croke Park and nowhere else.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall


Stop funding the Irish language

As someone who’ll never see 75 again, I’m always cheered by good news – like the piece by your columnist Lorraine Courtney, in last Saturday’s Irish Independent ‘Weekend Review’.

Ms Courtney tells us that the Irish language trails both English and Polish in Ireland, yet I don’t think public money is spent on either of these two tongues.

So why are such hard-to-come-by funds thrown at the promotion of, and teaching of, Irish?

Does Italy throw money at the preservation of Latin? Does Washington DC throw money at the preservation of the Comanche language?

Despite this country being on its knees economically, I venture to suggest that the reason why not one of our so-called politicians calls a halt to this madness of funding the Irish language is because not one of them has the ‘liathroidi’ to say ‘stop’.

And, as usual, the loser is the taxpayer.

Michael Dryhurst, Four Mile House, Roscommon

Irish Independent


August 25, 2014

25 August 2014 Cold

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I sort out thirty books from Marcus

Scrabble: I win, but get under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.

111 Games Mary win 58 John 54


Simin Behbahani – obituary

Simin Behbahani was a poet known as the ‘Lioness of Iran’ whose subversive verse was banned

Simin Behbahani in 2007

Simin Behbahani in 2007 Photo: AP

7:03PM BST 24 Aug 2014


Simin Behbahani, who has died aged 87, was widely considered to be the greatest living Persian language poet, known throughout the Middle East and much of the world as the “Lioness of Iran”.

She was credited with introducing modern themes into traditional verse forms like the ghazal, a Persian sonnet form distinguishable by its rhyming couplets and lilting lyrics. Traditionally, the ghazal featured a male poet addressing a woman. In Simin Behbahani’s poetry, the roles were reversed and she developed classical forms to explore everyday events and address social and political issues, including women’s and minority rights and freedom of expression.

She won numerous international awards both for her campaigning and her verse, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999 and 2002. As a result she was blacklisted by Iranian hardliners and denounced as subversive.

Simin Behbahani began writing poetry under the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, dealing with such matters as poverty, orphans and corruption, reflecting her lifelong concern with the marginalised and outcast. But the ghazal form was out of fashion; most of her poet contemporaries in Iran had embraced modern free-verse forms and some claimed the old genre was dead.

Her most popular poem, My Country, I Will Build You Again, was published soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution and expressed the optimism of those who thought they had witnessed a “democratic” revolution: “My country, I will build you again,/ If need be, with bricks made from my life”. But from the early stages Simin Behbahani was sceptical. “I realised changes were not going in the right direction,” she recalled.

When others woke up to the fact that the Islamic Revolution of 1979 had failed to deliver on its promises, people began to turn back to the old forms of poetry. As a result, Simin Behbahani, who had been largely ignored by the authorities under the Shah, began to attract the attention of the Islamic police.

Her work was banned for 10 years after the revolution and she became the target of harassment. Yet, oddly, for most of that time she was allowed considerable freedom to travel, and she made several tours of the United States.

This freedom, too, was curtailed, however, after the popular protests that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed election victory in 2009, when she appeared before both the Iranian and Western media to read two new poems, one commemorating the slain student protester Neda Agha-Soltan and the other denouncing Ahmadinejad without naming him: “If the flames of anger arise any higher in this land, your name on your tombstone will be covered with dirt,” she wrote. “You have become a babbling loudmouth, your insolent ranting, something to joke about.”

In March 2010 the 82-year-old Simin Behbahani, by now almost blind, was detained at Tehran airport as she prepared to board a flight for Paris to attend an International Women’s Day conference and led away by Iranian security officers, who confiscated her passport and interrogated her for several hours.

She was born Simin Khalili in Tehran on July 20 1927 into a family of intellectuals. Her father was a newspaper editor, her mother a poet and French teacher.

She studied law at Tehran University in the 1950s and later took the surname of her first husband, Behbahani, which she kept after their separation and her second marriage.

Simin Behbahani served for many years as president of the Iranian Writers’ Association. She received the Simone De Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom in recognition of her involvement in the “One Million Signatures” campaign for the repeal of discriminatory laws against women in Iran.

Simin Behbahani’s husband predeceased her. She is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Simin Behbahani, born July 20 1927, died August 19 2014


Your prescient analysis of Britain’s constitutional future (Answering the English question, Editorial, 22 August) points unmistakably to an eventual full-blown federation of the four UK nations, each (including England) with its own parliament and government, and guarantees in the written federal constitution against interference by federal Westminster, or by England, in the internal affairs of the three smaller nations. However, you then fail to reach that obvious conclusion, apparently blown off course by the idea of splitting England into regions for federal purposes, which for many reasons (including strong English objections) is a nonstarter.

Like many other commentators, including the otherwise far-sighted Gordon Brown, you seem to see the disproportionate size of England as an obstacle to federation. But it’s precisely that which makes a federal system essential if the union is to survive. England’s dominance of the UK and interference in Scotland’s domestic affairs, even after partial devolution, have brought the UK to the brink of disintegration. If the union survives 18 September, we need to move gradually towards full internal self-government for all four nations and limitations on the powers of a federal parliament and government, on the pattern of many successful western federal democracies from the US and Australia to Germany and Switzerland. As you rightly say, a constitutional convention will be an excellent first step.
Brian Barder

• Tam Dalyell was right in 1977 just as John Redwood is right today. The present Westminster parliament, with or without MPs representing Scotland, needs reforming. As someone who favours a federal solution, I acknowledge how difficult it would be to establish effective regional government in England because many people are not sure where they belong. Lincolnshire, where I have lived for nearly 40 years, is a prime example. Why not therefore establish a parliament for England? But where should it be? You can see the bids rushing in.

So why not give our present parliament a dual function? It could be where MPs from Northern Ireland, Wales, England and possibly Scotland come together to debate and pass legislation that affects us all, defence being an obvious area, while reserving time for MPs representing English constituencies to legislate on matters affecting England alone.

It would also be worth considering at the same time devolving more power to local government in England, including the replacement of the remaining two-tier structures by unitary authorities, which, I believe, has already happened in the other parts of the UK, and a root and branch reform of local government finance. It’s still not too late.
John Marriott
North Hykeham, Lincolnshire

• An English parliament would be disastrous for the north, leaving us even more marginalised by London and the south-east. I’m puzzled by the apparent breadth of support for an all-England parliament suggested by the Edinburgh and Cardiff University study you refer to. Up here there is growing interest in having devolved government for the north – and I detect little anti-Scots sentiment. Quite the opposite, with some suggesting that if Scotland votes yes they might like to consider moving the border a hundred miles further south!
Professor Paul Salveson

• Derek Wyatt (Letters, 21 August) is right to say that the UK should now become a federal state, but it should have six members, not four: England north of the Wash; “Saxland”, south of the Wash; the federal territory of London; Scotland; Wales; and Northern Ireland. A federation would be inherently unstable with one member (England as currently defined) having 84% of the population, and the government’s standard English regions have been rejected by the voters. Cameron should have offered the Scots the option of being part of a federal Britain.
Robert Craig

• The political units formed in Anglo-Saxon times offer a possible federalist framework: Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex and so on.
Philip Wood
Kidlington, Oxfordshire

• Let’s us hear less of an English parliament and more about how localities can be empowered. We will need a constitutional convention post-referendum if Scotland votes yes, but let it also address how areas of England can run their own affairs instead of continuing to be ordered around by Whitehall. Proper constitutional status is needed, and our own powers to raise monies. And if the Scottish people vote no, we will still need a constitutional convention to grant additional powers to Scotland. But it could also address the same issue for English localities.
Vicky Seddon

• As somebody born and brought up in Manchester, the thoughts of an English assembly leave me cold. England is so much less than the sum of its parts. Growing up I always identified with the north with such programs as the Northcountryman on the North Home Service. I am indeed first a Northerner, then perhaps British. I have never associated myself with England except perhaps in enjoyment of Vaughan Williams, Holst and Delius. To me the English are the softies down south. My solution is devo max to the north country (and to others within England).
Peter Swinbank

• What we English need is not so much a parliament for England as parliaments for each of the great English regions. And what the Scots need is not to escape from the UK, but the same as the rest of us: to escape from the grasp of London, with a major downsizing of the UK government machine at Westminster. Which we could seek better together.
Tony Ridge

Inventor James Dyson with one of his vacuum cleaners: his company is seeking judicial review of the

Reducing energy consumption is one matter, changing Newtonian physics quite another (Most powerful vacuum cleaner models banned, 22 August). If two vacuum cleaners have identical mechanical efficiency, but one is twice as powerful as the other, the more powerful cleaner will pick up more dust.

The new EU rules on wattage will simply extend the time required to remove the same amount of dust, or leave rooms dirtier. If they banned powerful kettles, we’d take longer to make tea.

For people with dust allergies, the outlook is grim. There will be more dust in their houses, and more cost to their purses as they have to change bags more often. Bagless vacuum cleaners, with dusty, dirty emptying, are not an option for the very allergic.

It would be good to see other manufacturers join forces with James Dyson in seeking the judicial review of this legislation that he intends to obtain. The grounds for such a review patently exist. The EU’s ecodesign requirements state that they “should not affect functionality from the end-user’s perspective”, which they will; and “should not negatively affect health, safety or the environment”.

Isn’t it better to introduce good testing and labelling so that we can choose more easily between products?
Nigel Pollitt

• I wonder when in the interests of climate change the EU will get round to banning the most powerful cars?

Ah, I forgot, only little people push vacuums around.
Martin Jeeves

Oliver Letwin, minister of government policy: an enthusiastic privatiser since the 1970s. Photograph

Channel 4’s David Abraham is naive to imagine that “US entities” are not queuing up to privatise institutions such as the NHS and public service broadcasting (A gold rush that threatens television’s risk-takers, 22 August).

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is merely the logical extension of Nicholas Ridley’s 1977 report, devised for the Thatcher shadow cabinet and supported by Keith Joseph and the Institute for Economic Affairs, which recommended a policy of breaking up the public sector and castrating unions. Ridley’s present champions within the Conservative party include Oliver Letwin and John Redwood, who when working for NM Rothschild bank’s international privatisation department laid plans for the Social Security Act in 1988, the same year Letwin published his book, Privatising the World. Letwin, now minister of government policy, has overseen the health secretary’s work since 2010. Cameron’s links with News International have been well documented and exposed in this newspaper. It’s not just “creative freedom and independence” that are at stake.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

• Those of us who share your letter writers’ concern (Where’s the outrage over trade deal? 22 August) that TTIP will be a device to secure the permanent predominance of international capitalism over elected democracies need look no further the same day’s business pages, where we were told that Bank of America had “agreed” to pay a record $16bn fine over the sale of flawed mortgages (Report, 22 August)). I look forward to the day when my local paper reports that Joe Bloggs has “agreed” to pay his speeding fine. That one word already establishes, before any TTIP announcement, the true nature of relations between states and corporations.
Ted Woodgate
Billericay, Essex

• The outrage is being channelled by 38Degrees into protests throughout the country on 30 August (
Eddie Dougall
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

A dandelion seed head: the plant has dozens of uses.  Photograph: AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Your celebration of the piss-a-bed was a bit half-hearted (In praise of… dandelions, 21 August), ignoring their musical, sexual, gastronomic and other uses. The stalk makes an excellent wind instrument, until it wilts after five minutes (I used to run a dandelion orchestra in France: we played short, minimalistic pieces). The locally anaesthetic sap could be turned into an action-delaying rubber, the leaves enhance most salads, the flowers make an astonishing diuretic wine and the roots are a source of ersatz coffee. The ideal posy for a stroll in the woods with a partner, providing seductive aids for all the senses.
Brian Smith
Berlin, Germany

• The death of James Alexander Gordon, famed reader of the football results on the BBC’s Sports Report, (Obituary, 20 August) brings to mind a bulletin many years ago when a news reporter was called in at the last minute to read the football results: “League Division 1, Arsenal 2; Birmingham City 3, Manchester United 2 …” He wondered why a team was left over at the end.
Mike Broadbent
Luton, Bedfordshire

• No one needed to see an aerial view of Cliff Richard’s house as breaking news: the cost of that helicopter should come out of Tony Hall’s salary (Police attack BBC over Cliff Richard raid, 23 August).
Peter McKenna

• Working in a bookshop I am often asked for a resume of a book a customer has picked up. I’ve never been able to decide whether we would sell more or fewer (Letters, 23 August) if I handed out a John Crace Digested Read.
Angela Barton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire



Sir, You say that relying on physician associates is likely to be a false economy (“Doctor, Doctor?” leader, Aug 22). From my perspective on the hospital shop floor there is a definite shortage of personnel and this can affect the training of doctors and patient safety. My trust is recruiting nurses from the Philippines and Portugal, because we do not have enough nursing staff. Doctors, fresh from medical school, find their training programmes changed in line with an NHS recommendation called “Broadening the Foundation”. They spend less time in hospitals training in surgery and medicine, and more time in the community studying psychiatry and general practice.

To counteract the reduction of the medical workforce the introduction of Physicians Assistants is a sensible move and, if properly planned and monitored, will be a positive adjunct to patient care and safety.

Humphrey Scott
Head of School of Surgery
Ashford & St Peters NHS Trust

Sir, Thirty years ago at Papworth Hospital we saw the need for physician assistants to help in our operating theatres and intensive care unit. Our first recruits were theatre sisters from other hospitals. These worked under the supervision of consultants and soon proved their worth. They became proficient at various tasks previously performed by junior doctors, such as removing the saphenous vein for a coronary bypass operation, thereby liberating junior staff to enhance their training by being more involved with the major part of the operation.

Clearly, as has been shown in the US, many roles in the NHS could usefully be filled by non-doctors with the right training. I would urge, however, that these individuals be called Physician Assistants rather than Physician Associates, for this should clarify their role. Also that they should serve under the responsibility of individual consultants or consultant teams.

Sir Terence English

Sir, I believe your comments on the potential value of physician associates to the NHS are short-sighted. Experience in the US, where there are more than 80,000 such professionals, demonstrates the value of these individuals who work under the supervision of fully trained doctors and with well-defined roles. Your criticism would have better been directed at the unwillingness of the secretary of state to bring physician associates under statutory regulation. Protection of the title, and regulation of the profession through the Health Professions Council, would ensure uniform standards for all the university courses being set up to create this new cadre of health care workers, as well as allowing scrutiny of the performance and continuing professional development of individuals. I believe such statutory regulation would be welcomed by the Physician Associates themselves.

Humphrey Hodgson
Emeritus Professor of Medicine UCL
London N10

Sir, Physician associates have been valued members of our medical team at East Surrey Hospital for a year. They are universally enthusiastic, intelligent and committed clinicians who do not replace doctors but rather work in synergy with them. They are an exciting new role to be welcomed to the NHS.

Dr Ben Mearns
Dr Natalie Powell
Surrey & Sussex Healthcare
NHS Trust

Sir, As a principal recreation and amenity officer at the Welsh Water Authority in the 1970s and 1980s I had many meetings with riparian, angling and canoeing bodies (David Aaronovitch, “Don’t let this petty row mess with the river”, Aug 21). I was trying to negotiate access for canoeists to specific rivers. On every occasion the riparian and angling organisations agreed but then backed out with spurious excuses. The Welsh Water Authority made significant grants to angling associations to buy stretches of rivers in Wales, but we could never get access to such waters for canoeing.

Canoeing is a healthy outdoor sport which has grown in popularity in recent years. British paddlers have been worthy Olympic medallists due in no small measure to the success of facilities such as are to be found on the Afon Treweryn in North Wales.

As Mr Aaronovitch states, the situation could be resolved if organisations such as the Angling Trust would act in a mature and democratic manner. Scotland has shown the way through the Land Reform Act of 2003, surely the time has come for England and Wales to follow suit.

John W Gittins

Sir, I fail to understand the enthusiasm in some quarters for Mr Gove’s reforms which discourage schools from allowing pupils to resit exams. The reforms seem designed to make it easier to assess and compare schools rather than to encourage students to achieve their potential.

As a school governor I have seen that the opportunity to resit can make a huge difference to some pupils, particularly those of middle ability, who may then be able to improve their grades and thus their chances for employment or further education.

In the real world we are not expected to get everything right first time and perseverance is admired and rewarded. Mr Gove should be aware of this since I understand that he had to take his driving test seven times.

Unlike Mr Gove’s driving instructor however, secondary schools have a finite time to improve the results of their less able students and allowing early exam entry and resits may be part of this process. Surely schools should be encouraged in this, rather than penalised in the league tables even if they are successful.

Dr Mike Betterton
Skelton, Cleveland

Sir, During the war my mother joined the WRNS and was sent to the US on board the Empress of Scotland. She told me: “There were four of us, three with double-barrelled names. The Americans were expecting seven Wrens.”

Christina Padbury
Duxford, Cambs

Sir, Red kites do indeed take live prey in some circumstances (letter, Aug 22). This spring I was playing golf in Oxfordshire and a farmer over the hedge was ploughing up a field of winter wheat that had failed. His tractor was pursued by no fewer than 34 red kites, all searching for anything that moved and not at all happy with each other’s company.

Robin Knight
London W4

Sir, Around here red kites regularly take young plovers, leverets, ducklings and also tried to snatch a pointer puppy. Thankfully the owner scooped up the puppy just in time. I can assure you that no mowing machinery was in sight at any of these venues.

Joyce Marriott
Pyrton, Oxon


The Scots are tired of being called parasites

For many years, North Sea oil allowed Scotland to subsidise the rest of the UK

The vote on Scottish independence takes place on September 18 Photo: PA

6:58AM BST 24 Aug 2014


SIR – Ron Mason (Letters, August 17) is right that Scotland runs a large budget deficit but this is also true of the whole United Kingdom. In 2012-13, the UK raised £612 billion in revenue and spent £720 billion. Scotland contributed 9.1 per cent of the revenue and received 9.3 per cent of the spending. In the process, Scotland ran a £12 billion deficit, £1.5 billion of which was supplied by other UK taxpayers and the other £10.5 billion by borrowing.

Yet Scotland’s deficit is regularly discussed as if beleaguered English taxpayers were funding the whole lot.

For most of the last 34 years, North Sea oil has allowed Scotland to subsidise the rest of the UK. This is a matter neither for boasting nor for resentment: had the oil been discovered off England’s coast, Scotland would have benefited along with the rest of the UK.

My fear is that every time Scotland is depicted as England’s weakling dependant (or indeed as a nation of xenophobic bigots) and every time “gratitude” is demanded from the Scots, more of them are galvanised into voting to terminate the Union. After all, there is no pride or self-respect in belonging to a Britain where you are regarded as a parasite.

Rob Johnston
Peterhead, Aberdeenshire

Shorter summer hols

SIR – It is all very well tourist industry bosses complaining about the prospect of shorter summer holidays (Letters, August 17), but I believe that if school pupils were asked for their opinion, a large majority would prefer a shorter main break in the summer.

The current system is outdated and a nightmare for working parents. A major change is long overdue. In time, the benefits of an evenly balanced school year will be proved.

Minna Andrews
Burntwood, Staffordshire

So annoying

SIR – “Like” is not the only word to be over-used (Letters, August 17). “So” is a terrible Americanism to use at the start of sentences, especially when asked a question. It is even more annoying when people drag it out – “Sooooooo” – while their brain thinks of an answer.

Andrew Holgate
Woodley, Cheshire

SIR – Recently, when saying farewell to someone who was emigrating to France the following day, they responded “See you later”.

I only just managed to restrain myself.

Jane Scott
Buckden, Cambridgeshire

Teach schoolchildren as pupils, not students

SIR – Douglas Davies (Letters, August 17) should be grateful that he does not work in junior education, in which even six-year-olds are routinely described as “students” in both state and independent schools.

It is symptomatic of a trend that denies children (sorry, “young people”) the opportunity to be children. Parents should beware: many teachers who talk about their “students” have also fallen for the canard that education these days is all about students acquiring vacuous “skills”, coordinated by “learning facilitators” – rather than actually being taught things.

Peter Boyle
Buckland, Oxfordshire

SIR – This pernicious fad oozed out of the Left-wing teacher training colleges in roughly the Sixties. Presumably it was supposed to empower the pupils and make them feel more adult.

Putting children in the position of students places the responsibility for their educational success or failure unfairly on them.

Jenny Cobb
Five Ashes, East Sussex

SIR – I worked in comprehensive schools for 30 years. We always called those we were teaching “students” because they were studying. The word “pupil”, deriving as it does from a Latin word meaning “without parents”, seemed less relevant.

Mik Shaw
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

BT customer service

SIR – John Petter’s positive view of his own consumer division at BT contrasts totally with ours. Over the last five months we have spent over 18 hours on the telephone speaking with five different divisions of BT.

For about two months we were trying to have the loss of the broadband service reinstated. Agreeing to an engineer visit, which eventually sorted out the problem, was anathema to BT. It also took BT four or five months to install a telephone service despite being given over two months’ notice of our moving date. For two months after moving we relied on fragile mobile reception, and ran up sizeable mobile-phone bills.

For a company that specialises in communication, its internal communication systems are rubbish. Of the 50 to 60 BT staff we spoke to, only two took any responsibility for the issues we presented. We were subjected to endless cycles of listening to the same automated menus; being asked to repeat the same information; being passed from person to person without notice or benefit; being asked to run the same tests, and experiencing our calls drop out and having to start all over again. The inconvenience and time wasted was appalling.

Malcolm and Rosie Baxter
Lairg, Sutherland

Recycling vs burning

SIR – While it seems true to say that Britain “is on track to export a record amount of waste for incineration abroad”, it is wrong to suggest that this is due to “a shortage of incinerators”. In fact it is due to incineration overcapacity in an increasing number of European countries, coupled with a shortage of domestic recycling infrastructure.

Similarly, it is incorrect to suggest that incineration is somehow environmentally friendly. Greenhouse gases are not emitted by burying plastics, but they are most certainly emitted by burning plastics.

As most of what is incinerated and landfilled could be recycled, the question should not be “Why are we not burning more in the Britain”, but “Why are we not recycling or composting more?”.

Incinerators are very expensive to build, and this money should be invested in recycling, which is greener than incineration and creates far more jobs.

Shlomo Dowen
United Kingdom Without Incineration Network
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

An island divided

SIR – The article on Famagusta by Victoria Hislop would benefit from some historical perspective. The Treaty of 1959 “Concerning the Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus” was followed in1960 by the Treaty of Alliance, in which Britain, Greece and Turkey all undertook to guarantee the independence of Cyprus.

In 1974, the Greek military junta aided the pro-enosis (union with Greece) Cypriot National Guard to mount its own coup. Britain abdicated from its treaty obligation to maintain an independent Cyprus. This left Turkey to occupy about a third of the island in the predominantly Turkish north to halt the union with Greece taking place.

In 2004 the United Nations put forward the Annan proposals for reuniting the island. In the subsequent referendum the Turkish Cypriots, despite some reservations, voted 65 per cent in favour of reuniting. The Greek Cypriots, however, voted 76 per cent against reunification.

This is why the island continues to be divided.

Walter F Hughes
Bennington, Nottinghamshire

Don’t fear metric

SIR – Unlike Richard Tyler (Letters, August 17), children today have no fear of metric units. Imperial units receive little attention in today’s school curriculums.

I cannot understand why people still talk about consumption in miles per gallon when we have been buying petrol in litres for years.

Tim Nixon
Braunton, Devon

St Ives must control its seagulls or they’ll take over

More and more gulls are being attracted to seaside towns by the easy availability of food

Seagulls survey the view from an ice cream shop in St Ives, Cornwall

A pair of hungry seagulls await their next victim from a convenient vantage point in St Ives, Cornwall  Photo: ALAMY

6:59AM BST 24 Aug 2014


SIR – I love visiting St Ives, but I shall be less inclined to do so if the council has really given up the fight to control the seagull problem.

There have been several recorded incidents from around Britain this summer of people being injured by seagulls trying to snatch food. People should be much more wary of gulls, and herring gulls in particular, than Dr Ross-Smith of the British Trust for Ornithology suggests.

The best way to combat the problem is for the public to avoid consuming food in the open air, to dispose of any food waste in a bin with a lid and definitely not to feed such birds with titbits. That is easier said than achieved.

The increasing number of birds being attracted to seaside towns by the easy pickings does warrant continued efforts to control numbers in the interests of public health and public safety. Many councils recognise this and best practice has been pioneered in Dumfries since 2008 with advice from the bird conservation charities. The pricking of eggs is effective if it is done more than once during the breeding season.

For St Ives to give up the fight to keep numbers under control only means that they will have to deal with an even bigger, and more expensive, problem at a later date.

R J Ardern

Muslim countries should play a bigger role in combating Isil

Predominantly non-Muslim countries are reluctant to get directly involved in fighting the extremist caliphate in Iraq

Shi'ite volunteers, from Abbas Unit who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), parade down a street in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad

Shi’ite volunteers from Abbas Unit who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant parade down a street in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad Photo: Reuters

7:00AM BST 24 Aug 2014


SIR – David Cameron says the world cannot turn a blind eye to the creation of an extremist caliphate in Iraq.

Could Mr Cameron explain what he means by “the world”?

Who does he suppose should prevent further conflict and slaughter? Clearly, Britain, America, much of Europe and most members of the UN do not want to get directly involved because of strongly negative public opinion. Might one reason for this be that many think that the Muslim world should be taking a bigger role in controlling Muslim transgressions?

Islam has 1.57 billion adherents, making up over 23 per cent of the world population.

It is predicted that the world’s Muslim population will grow twice as fast as other groups over the next 20 years. By 2030, Muslims will make up more than a quarter of the global population. This might suggest that problems will increase and not decrease.

Roger Haywood
Happisburgh, Norfolk

SIR – David Cameron does well to join the dots with regard to the fight against extremism, however in listing possible allies he includes sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran, and excludes the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel.

He names our foes as Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and al-Shabab, but neglects to mention Hezbollah and Hamas. Unless you complete the circle you will not have a effective campaign against extremism.

Brian Greenaway
South Darenth, Kent

SIR – Given our recent history of intervention in the Middle East, David Cameron’s reluctance to commit British troops to the crisis in Iraq is entirely understandable.

Surely the solution is for both Britain and America to urge the United Nations to mobilise a multinational task force as a matter of extreme urgency. Many countries must be appalled by the behaviour of Isil but would be reluctant to get involved without a UN resolution.

David Langfield
Pyrford, Surrey

SIR – David Cameron refuses to acknowledge that Saudi Arabia and its kleptocratic rulers have further destabilised the Middle East by playing the destructive sectarian card against “apostate” Shiites. The result was the regular targeting of Iraq’s Shiite pilgrims and their shrines by Sunni jihadists. Now it’s the turn of Iraq’s Christians and Yazidis. Saudi Arabia would also have the West go to war with Iran rather than seek rapprochement.

William Hague foolishly aligned Britain with the Saudis by supporting Syria’s Sunni jihadist insurgents. No wonder British Sunni militants flocked to Syria and now Iraq. That some will return as trained terrorists is a legitimate worry. The terrorists posing a threat to the West are Sunni, not Shiite. Assad, Hezbollah and Iran are not our enemies.

Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

SIR – The Australian government is in the process of enacting a change in law which will allow it to revoke the citizenship of anyone who is identified as having travelled abroad to join groups such as Isil. This will in effect prevent them from returning to Australia.

Surely Britain should consider taking similar action?

Jeff Tonge
Bolton, Lancashire

SIR – With the tragic death of James Foley, isn’t time the EU issued a clear directive to its members not to pay kidnappers ransom money? Countries like Spain, Italy and France are financing and encouraging Isil.

Carole Storey Tennant
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

SIR – David Cameron says that this struggle will last the rest of his political lifetime. The Allies defeated the Nazis in six years. Surely if all the nations opposed to Isil, including those in the Middle East, united together militarily under the auspices of the UN, they could get rid of it very quickly?

Anthony Gould
London W1

Irish Times

Sir, – In relation to Isolde Goggin’s article “Why GPs don’t need collective bargaining” (Opinion & Analysis, August 18th), there are multiple anomalies in the GP relationship with the State. The biggest is the State’s dominant or monopoly position as a purchaser of GP services and its ruthless exercising of this dominance as demonstrated by the Fempi (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) reductions.

Ill health, unfortunately, is inextricably linked with unemployment and poverty.

In 2011, Enniscorthy had an unemployment rate of 31.7 per cent, in comparison to the official State unemployment rate of 14.3 per cent. The demands on GP services are massive in towns such as Enniscorthy, yet the average funding per patient each GP receives is the same across the country.

I would appreciate an opportunity to negotiate a service level agreement and budget directly with the State on behalf of my patients but this mechanism does not currently exist. Again, it’s unclear how competition can be encouraged in areas of high deprivation where GPs are increasingly unlikely to remain in practice. Perversely the State has reduced competition in these towns by using the blunt instrument of Fempi by making practices less viable.

Deprivation indices such as those used in Northern Ireland are used there to support basic and enhanced GP services in areas of deprivation. Would it be anti-competitive for GP practices in one area to receive deprivation payments and for others not to?

While it is true there was a larger percentage rise in State funding to GPs in the seven-year period up to 2008 when compared with the rise in the retail price index for the same period, this was largely due to funding having come from a very low base. Virtually all this increase in funding has now been reversed and little over 2 per cent of the health budget goes to fund GP services, as compared to 10 per cent in the UK. – Yours, etc,


Enniscorthy Medical


Court Street,

Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

Sir, – In recent years there has been much comment in the media about the introduction of the new Project Maths curriculum into the secondary system. However there appears to have been very little comment about the corresponding curriculum in the primary system. As a parent of children who have recently passed through this system, I have had many occasions to peruse the workbooks that students are now learning from to progress in mathematics. I have been somewhat alarmed at the standard of some of the textbooks that are being used in many of the classrooms.

The treatment of many of the topics or strands is simply not in sufficient depth to challenge more able or even brighter students. There is insufficient time given to the learning of fundamental mathematical operations such as multiplication and division in many of these workbooks. Instead of investigating a topic in any depth, the exercises move very quickly from one topic or strand to the next. In some textbooks, almost all the exercises pose questions on all the strands on every page without ever going into any depth in any of these strands.

What appears to be happening is that authors in these books are recoiling from including any form of challenging or difficult problem-solving questions. I would have major reservations about this approach to the teaching of mathematics at this level.

It is worth nothing that major changes are currently being introduced into the primary maths curriculum in the UK with the aim of improving standards and bringing standards at primary level into line with countries such as Singapore and other high-performing maths countries. There is a strong emphasis being placed on practice to gain familiarity with, and expertise in, fundamental concepts in the subject at this level.

In conclusion, particularly in light of the proposed changes in the UK, I think there is a need to have a root-and-branch review of the standard of mathematics that is now being taught, the curriculum itself and the quality of the textbooks provided at primary level in this country. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Mathematics,

Institute of Technology,

Tallaght, Dublin.

A chara, – Aongus Collins’s cartoon in the Health + Family supplement (August 19th) of a career guidance counsellor in a one-to-one meeting with a student will bring a wry smile to many involved in education.

Since 2012, a series of short-sighted cuts has seen the guidance and counselling service provided to our second-level students seriously diminished.

One recent study by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) found that over 70 per cent of schools have had to reduce the provision of one-to-one guidance counselling for students and that almost a third of schools have been forced to abandon one-to-one sessions.

This is despite the fact that students place a very high value on one-to-one sessions with their schools guidance counsellor and that this is seen as a key factor in their satisfaction with overall guidance provision.

The recently published ESRI report Leaving School in Ireland: A Study of Post-School Transitions highlights the critical importance of the career guidance service in a student’s journey through second-level school and beyond. Students felt that generic group guidance activities were a poor substitute for the personal interaction of one-to-one meetings and did not reflect their individual needs and aspirations.

Reducing the already meagre resources available to young people at a time when they have greatest need for them makes little educational or economic sense and will most likely prove more costly in the long term.

The appointment of Jan O’Sullivan as Minister for Education and Skills provides a welcome opportunity to undo some of the damage done in the recent past. Reversing the swingeing cuts to the guidance provision would be a good first step – Is mise,





Co Kerry.

Sir, – Paul Krugman’s observation that war makes no economic sense is obvious when looked at logically (“Wars make no economic sense yet they still happen”, August 19th). However his assertion that wars are driven by the egos of leaders who are looking for political survival or longevity falls short of the full story.

In many of the world’s larger economies, and especially that of the US, a significant proportion of public expenditure is made up of a military-industrial complex which requires regular wars to use up the vast inventories of weapons, and thus pave the way for additional lucrative contracts to replenish the arsenals. This sector has been significantly privatised in recent years and has increased its influence in the corridors of power, with a massive presence among the phalanx of lobbyists. The results are a shameful indictment of capitalism at its worst. The Iraq war of 2003 was merely a slush fund for privatised military contractors and weapons producers. The ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza is being fuelled by US arms supplied by privatised subcontractors such as Lockheed Martin, whose share price got a 6 per cent bounce during the bombings.

Public opinion, and with it common sense, is bought through the oftentimes incestuous relationship between military contractors and the media.

War is a major factor in economic activity globally even though it has no logical basis and will remain so until we elect political leaders prepared to take on these vested interests. – Yours, etc,


Linden Avenue,



Sir, – It’s interesting that a spike in house prices, particularly in Dublin, coincides with a reported shortage of supply. Clearly, the market, the beast that brought us to near disaster in 2008, is still being allowed to rule. Keeping it at the centre of national life is a recipe for another major blow.

Its apologists will, of course, trumpet the price rise as a vindication of recent national policy, and a good thing. Yet a rise in the price of milk is not, usually, seen as a good thing. In fact, the house price rise threatens to betray another generation of young people.

Leaving the provision of homes for them in the hands of private developers, and, thus the market, is a pretty staggering abrogation of national responsibility. A home is a sacred thing, and its integrity should never be threatened by unscrupulous profit-seekers.

A less laissez faire approach by national agencies is, clearly, called for, for the worship of false gods is not recommended in any religious tradition.

The creation of a department of housing might be a useful first step, one appreciated by thousands of worried young couples. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Further to recent correspondence, the HPAT (Health Professions Admissions Test) has always been a ridiculous test for admission to medical school.

Potential medical students should be warned that when they graduate, they may well have to leave this country permanently. There should, therefore, be induction courses on life in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and the US! – Yours, etc,


Merlyn Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – I write to compliment the staff of An Post on the extraordinary quality of their service. For example, I have posted many letters right up to the last collection time of 5.30pm in Kells, Co Meath, and these were correctly delivered the next day in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Waterford and Westmeath.

Based on my experience in many countries, the Irish postal service is among the very best. – Yours, etc,


Headfort Demesne,


Co Meath.

Sir, – I have just received a letter that a friend had accidently misaddressed. The envelope arrived with a large An Post sticker with my correct address written by hand. The sticker bore the quite clear instructions: “For Internal Use Only” and “Do NOT deliver with this label attached”.

In this impersonal age and the advent of generic postcodes looming, I was heartened to see that An Post had time for the human moment. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – In the interests of equality on this our fair isle of comely maidens, could I make a plea for an annual “Lovely Boys Competition”? As we already have a blueprint with the Rose of Tralee gawkfest, the same quasi-indeterminate criteria could apply: any Irish ancestry you can muster up is always a help; be straight, for God’s sake; no daddies please; an ability to dance a little jig or coo a little poetry; and finally, but by no means least, evidence of admirable intelligence and ambition combined with a simpering naivety.

However, I strongly suggest the inclusion of a new element, the old reliable swimwear round, as it ensures we never lose sight of the actual nature of the competition – to find the prettiest boy.

Boys, please form an orderly queue, either as participants or apologists. – Yours, etc,




Irish Independent:

So Professor Richard Dawkins thinks that it is immoral to bring a Down Syndrome child into the world. Immoral? I always thought that morality was that attribute of humankind that made us different from all the other animals on the planet.

Morality is our conscious having a go at us – for example, if you get on a train without paying, or find a €50 note and slip it into your pocket, that little voice in your head will say, “that might belong to an OAP who’s now skint until Thursday.” It’s not right to keep it, it’s not moral.

Why stop at Down Syndrome professor, why not include people who will go on to be diagnosed with diseases such as MS or cancer, even your fellow professor, Stephen Hawking, the greatest mind since Einstein?

Now, I know you’ll probably say that these are acquired illnesses and are impossible to predict from a foetal scan. That’s true, professor, but as you would be the first to admit, what technological miracles await us in 10 or 20 years’ time? If we are able at that stage to determine, from a scan of the womb, illnesses that will in the course of our lives incapacitate us to such an extent that our bodies are no longer able to carry out orders from the brain, would you still advocate such a course of action, even if it would deprive the world of someone like Prof Hawking?

Perhaps, Prof Dawkins, in the future you could refrain from such callous, hurtful statements and stick instead to your incredible life’s work on Darwinism.

Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare


The forgotten county?

With the GAA All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in mind will the threatened train strikes have an impact on the people of Dublin, Kerry and Mayo? Of course it will, as they have trains.

Will it have an impact on the people of Donegal? Of course it won’t. Fifty years ago the last train pulled out of Donegal and its rail lines were ripped up resulting in the country’s most peripheral county becoming even more peripheral.

No politician in the intervening period has had the courage to try and reverse a completely incomprehensible action. And they wonder why Donegal people consider themselves the “forgotten county”.

Micheal Mellett, Lucan, Co Dublin


Helping the competition

The logic of the railway workers in calling for a 48-hour strike is difficult to grasp. In a bid to better their employment and conditions they hand over their customers to potential competitors. As a strategy for securing a better future, this particular train of thought shouldn’t have been allowed leave the station.

TG O’Brien, Dalkey, Co Dublin


Olive branches

What a juxtaposition of stories on your World News section last Saturday. Sixty-eight people blown to bits – not by UN/USA/Israeli forces – but by Islamic suicide bombers. Then Hamas execute 18 Palestinian citizens outside the Omari mosque, as worshippers were leaving, forcing them to watch the “warning” by their brave hooded freedom-fighters.

Opposite news of this gruesome “church-gate collection”, we were informed that “Italy’s olive groves face devastation by mystery bugs”. Not much hope of peace without olive branches, and they are needed now more than ever!

Sean Kelly, Tramore, Waterford


Fact versus fiction

After the brutal and cold-blooded murder of brave journalist James Foley, I feel it is wrong for all media to be continually referring to these cowardly terrorists as being associated with a fictional country or domain called “the Islamic State”. There is no such place.

These savages originate from many places but are carrying out their atrocities in Syria and Iraq. Continuing to refer to the aforementioned fictional place only gives credence and encouragement to these barbarians to carry out their mindless slaughter.

Thomas O’Connor, Crumlin, Dublin 12


Abortion is a society issue

Referring to Desmond Fitzgerald’s letter (Irish Independent, August 21) where he refers to abortion as a “social issue” and John Bellew’s letter (Irish Independent, August 22) calling abortion “the taking of human life,” the crux of the issue is the disagreement over whether a foetus is a human life. Tied in with this is the question of when does this life start: conception, implantation in the womb or some other arbitrarily defined point in time? Abortion will always be a divisive issue because of these diametrically opposing views.

The only way to move on from this impasse is for all parties, pro-life and pro-choice camps, to bring a sense of empathy and understanding to women who are pregnant against their wishes. We as society need to look at ourselves and not look at this issue in isolation. How do we treat our fellow human beings in general and especially the vulnerable and marginalised members of society?

Thomas Roddy, Salthill, Galway


Protecting the innocent

In the debate surrounding the unfortunate case of the baby delivered by caesarean section, the salient question is: Should an evil deed committed by one person (a rapist) result in the punishment of an innocent life (the unborn) that is unable to defend itself?

Is there not something inherent within our human psyche that tells us we should do everything possible to protect human life, particularly innocent life that cannot protect itself?

John Bellew, Dunleer, Co Louth


Dazzled by dance

It doesn’t look like the Haka war dance is a decisive factor in All Black wins. Australia sauntered to the sideline after the Haka. While I’ve no doubt NZ are extremely tough, it’s the dance component of their game that dazzles opponents. Would it not be worse if South Africa had a war dance? I imagine a coach’s worst fear is that you do all the routine of preparation and conditioning and yet the team plays flat on the day.

New Zealand appear best able to quickly crank themselves from a routine mindset to full throttle. In the patchwork of plays that make up a rugby match, every AB player is consistently seeking to spark the multi-cylinder engine that is NZ rugby. Whether it’s the individual himself, the lineage of the jersey, the competition for place or sheer duty, playing without dash and intelligence appears to sit least comfortably with AB rugby.

Patrick Dillion, Dublin


Albert Reynolds, the gent

It was a pleasure to meet the late Albert Reynolds, by chance, in London, some 10 years ago. He was accompanied only by his wife and without bodyguards, and we had a brief conversation about his premiership and Irish politics in general. He was, indeed, a gentleman and an international statesman who brought pride to Ireland.

Dominic Shelmerdine, London SW3


Sacking the Taoiseach

I would like to recount a little story about the time Albert Reynolds worked in CIE as a clerk. My own late father, Frank Gray, was at that time the Personnel Officer for the country, and as such Albert had to report to him.

It was noticed that Albert would be ‘missing’ from his posts in various railway stations in the country on more than a few occasions, as he worked as a relief clerk. My father learned that Albert had a sideline – no pun intended – so, it fell to my father to call on Albert and ask him if he wanted to continue to work for CIE or did he want to run his ballrooms. The rest is history. My father often told this story about the time he sacked a Taoiseach.

Olive Power, Ballina, Co Mayo

Irish Independent


August 24, 2014

24 August 2014 Books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I sort out thirty books from Marcus

Scrabble: I win, but get under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.

110 Games Mary win 58 John 53


Jean Redpath – obituary

Jean Redpath was a Scottish folk singer who shared an apartment with Bob Dylan and recorded the ballads of Robbie Burns

Jean Redpath performing at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1963

Jean Redpath performing at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1963 Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:18PM BST 22 Aug 2014


Jean Redpath, who has died aged 77, was considered one of the finest folk singers to emerge in the early British folk revival.

Revered as a Scottish musical treasure for her knowledge, understanding and research into traditional music, and her uniquely sensitive interpretations of some of the great ballads, she made more than 50 records, including seven LPs of Robbie Burns’s songs, and was an authority on traditional song. In the early Sixties she shared an apartment with Bob Dylan at the epicentre of the American folk revival in Greenwich Village.

Jean Redpath later in her career

Jean Redpath disliked the term “folk singer”, insisting: “I avoid it like the plague. In fact, I avoid putting a label on anything. I just like to sing – it’s an easier form of communication to me than talking.”

She had no formal training and said the best advice she ever received was when she sought the help of a singing coach, to be told that if she wanted to improve, the best thing she could do was go away and sing for 20 years the way she was doing already.

Born in Edinburgh on April 28 1937, Jean Redpath was brought up at Leven, Fife. Her childhood was surrounded by music: her mother sang traditional songs around the house, and her father, whose grandfather had made hammered dulcimers, later played that instrument on some of his daughter’s records.

Her mentor was the great Scottish folklorist Hamish Henderson, from the School of Scottish Studies, who visited the literary society at her school to give a talk on traditional song. “That was epiphany for me,” she said, and she was particularly moved when Henderson played the great travelling singer Jeannie Robertson’s version of The Overgate, a variant on a song her mother sang. Henderson was to become a firm friend and inspiration.

Jean started performing songs like Sir Patrick Spens and Willie’s Drooned in Yarrow in a four-piece group with Dolina MacLennan. She won a place at Edinburgh University, but dropped out after a year and in 1961 flew to San Francisco to sing at a friend’s wedding. She had no plans to stay or pursue a career in music, taking “a dollar an hour” jobs cleaning houses, minding children and driving cars. But the half-promise of a singing engagement at a club in Philadelphia lured her east, and when that failed to materialise she moved on to New York.

It was fortuitous timing. Becoming a “professional house guest”, she found herself sharing lodgings with Rambling Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan (also newly arrived in New York) just as the Greenwich Village folk boom was taking off.

Singing at famous clubs such as Gerdes Folk City, Jean Redpath became a leading light on that scene and, following an ecstatic review in The New York Times, was signed by Elektra to record her first album, Skipping Barefoot Through The Heather (1962). Primarily unaccompanied, the gentle quality of her delivery quickly established her as a true voice of the song tradition at a time when authenticity was greatly prized. She went on to put many more little-known traditional songs into wider circulation with her subsequent LPs Scottish Ballad Book (1962), Laddie Lie Near Me (1963) and Lilt And Laughter (1963).

Asked once at which point she had decided to become a professional singer, she replied: “About 10 years after I started doing it.” She toured the States regularly and also became an unlikely radio star with appearances singing (and revealing an unexpected flair for comedy) in a double act with Garrison Keillor on the APM show A Prairie Home Companion, and with Robert J Lurtsema on Morning Pro Musica for WGBH in Boston. She took great joy in sharing her passion for Scottish music, giving folklore talks in schools and spending four years (1972-76) as artist-in-residence at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

In 1979 she returned to Scotland, taking up residence as a lecturer at the University of Stirling; but she continued to record and perform concerts around the world.

Among her most important work was a collaboration with the American composer and ethnomusicologist Serge Hovey, in which they planned a 22-volume campaign to record every song ever written by Robbie Burns with the original tunes used by the poet himself. In the event, they recorded only seven albums of Burns material over 20 years before Hovey’s death from Lou Gehrig’s Disease; but those records still stand as definitive interpretations of Burns.

The Scottish tradition was Jean Redpath’s first and greatest love, although she was not averse to embracing contemporary material. She performed with the cellist Abby Newton and fiddle player David Gusakov, most significantly on Lady Nairne (1986), a collection of songs – including Will Ye No Come Back Again and The Rowan Tree – which focused attention on the previously relatively obscure writings of Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (1766-1845).

She also focused on women’s issues, helping to popularise songs like Judy Small’s Women Of Our Time, Glasgow Lullaby, Blue Bleezin’ Blind Drunk and The Jute Mill Song.

Jean Redpath, who was appointed MBE, championed Scottish culture at every opportunity, yet was contemptuous of some of the populist images it evoked, loathing songs such as Scotland The Brave.

“Most well-known Scottish songs subscribe to an image of Scotland I won’t touch with a barge pole,” she said.

Jean Redpath, born April 28 1937, died August 21 2014


The most sensible and useful thing would simply be to abolish school uniforms (“Schools are still out for summer, but it’s time to count the cost of uniforms“, News). Hated and subverted by pupils, generator of considerable time-wasting “discipline” problems or hassles for schools and teachers, often impractical (or at least useless as everyday clothes) and, of course, often wildly expensive.

If that is too much and the school must have the “correct” logo or coat of arms to brand its pupils, it could sell the badge separately as a brooch or a patch to attach to ordinary garments.

Children are conscripted to attend school (and mostly for their own good), but I can see no good reason to insist on quasi-military uniforms to brand them as attending this or that school. If it is a good one, they and their friends will feel part of it anyway. If it is a bad one, imposed uniforms will not make any difference.

Yes, the kids will invent their own group “uniforms” instead, which may or may not be school differentiated. The key point here is “their own”. In adults, it is called “choice” or “fashion”. And anyone who thinks a uniform protects the poorer kids from looking different has forgotten their own school days and the myriad cues to affluence and status that can be displayed in allegedly identical garb. Accept that schools are for learning for real life and clothes are mostly irrelevant. Remove one significant problem from school days.

Dr HM Gee

Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria

Lisa Bachelor deserves praise for citing a pawnbroker capitalising on low-income parents struggling to pay for their children’s school uniforms, amid cuts in council grants. However, another human cost is the harsh reality that many workers in Bangladesh, who are making UK brands’ school uniforms for poverty wages, cannot afford to educate their children.

We call on the government to ensure a living wage in Britain, so that all parents have enough money for uniforms, but also a living wage for workers producing them overseas for UK outlets, so they can send their own children to school.

Martin Gemzell

Senior international programmes officer

War on Want

London N1

Our family has been designing and manufacturing school uniforms for more than a century. We have been urging schools to avoid specific shops with hugely inflated margins on uniforms for decades. There are many new ways of distributing school uniforms and reducing costs, including a personal online service.

But to quote Aldi’s basic £4 school uniform without referencing it in terms of the provenance and quality of such garments is hardly fair. Schools are increasingly asking questions such as: “Who made these garments and whereabouts?”, “What quality can we expect from this garment?” and: “Does our school stand out in terms of a sense of belonging and identity?”

One has to ask oneself how much the people who have sewn these garments together have been paid and how long will these garments last when worn. As highlighted on recent television programmes such as Panorama, the conditions and wages of poorly paid workers in garment factories in less developed countries are shameful. Furthermore, recent studies by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have highlighted the growing garment waste pile accumulating from low-quality clothing retailers.

We believe a more balanced view is needed when reporting on the schoolwear market, which includes ethics, overall cost in use and quality. What is pertinent to this debate is the adult uniform market – businesses that care about their appearance do not send staff down to Aldi or a local uniform shop, but source their garments themselves; something schools are increasingly embracing.

Dr Mark Southcott

School Colours


Staff at Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge have faith in their pupils’ abilities. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Will Hutton says that “the Sutton Trust reports that four private schools and one sixth form college in Cambridge send as many students to Oxbridge as nearly 2,000 state schools”. (“If Britain wants a smarter society, it must favour poorer students”, Comment) It seems odd to me that people use this fact to point out where the state system is going wrong, rather than asking the question: “What is this particular state sixth form college in Cambridge doing right?” Hills Road college assumes that many of its students are capable of getting to Oxbridge. It has high academic standards. It trains the Oxbridge hopefuls in interview techniques. Why can’t other schools and sixth form colleges do the same?

Jo Edkins


The press and Robin Williams

Peter Preston appears to suggests (Media) that the [mere] existence of the internet removes the duty of newspaper editors to behave responsibly and in line with agreed guidelines when reporting sensitive matters such as the suicide of the actor Robin Williams.

It is bizarre to suggest that because “bad things” can be found on the internet, there should not be standards and guidelines for the British press. The editors’ code of practice is drawn up by editors – hence its name – and most have agreed to be bound by it. Arguing that the speed of the internet should allow for “bending of guidelines” once a story gains international attention is a transparent attempt to allow media outlets to wriggle out of not only their claimed accountability to self-regulation (and I would agree that is a bit of a joke anyway), but also out of their duty of care to readers.

The failure of those who ignored their own code demonstrates the urgent necessity of creating a truly independent and effective self-regulator, which will protect both the press and readers.

Joan Smith

Executive director, Hacked Off

Proper mince and tatties

I’m sorry, Fergus [Henderson, chef], I tried your recipe for mince and tatties and while delicious, it is actually mince ragout and tatties (Observer Food Monthly). Any Scottish laddie of a certain age knows that to make proper mince and tatties, one needs:

1. A pound of the best possible quality minced beef.

2. One chopped onion (unsweated).

Place the mince and the onion in a little water together with one or two crumbled red Oxo cubes (I am prepared to countenance the addition of some pinhead oatmeal if I must). Simmer for 2-3 hours and thicken if necessary. Serve with floury potatoes that can be mashed into the mince.

Enjoy being taken back to childhood!

Professor Bill Grant

University of Leicester

Education, not inspection

In the 1970s, enlightened local education authorities appointed advisers rather than inspectors – both subject and general advisers. These were friends of their schools, visiting often, able to drop in and out of classrooms, aware of achievements and individual teaching performance. In the 1980s, enlightened industry moved away from inspection to understanding that process control was much more effective, relegating tick-boxes and targets to history, understanding that continued process improvement backed by process measurement would produce so much more.

Your article “Academies run by ‘superhead’ received advance notice of Ofsted checks” (News) demonstrated why both these movements worked better than Ofsted. Could it be that the real problems within our education system stem from its politicisation and the creation of a money-making marketplace? Oh for Tony Blair’s mantra “education, education, education” to be implemented by someone – unlike Blair – who understands what this really means.

Jon Choppin

Blandford Forum, Dorset

Not quite the first annexation

Oliver Bullough writes: “The fact that Putin stole Crimea [odd use of "fact"!] … was the first annexation in Europe since the Second World War” (Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches From Kiev, New Review). Well, Khrushchev “stole” Crimea in 1954 and annexed it to Ukraine without consulting its people; wasn’t that the first?

Of course Monmouthshire was annexed to Wales in 1974, so far luckily without disastrous consequences.

Professor Robin Milner-Gulland


West Sussex

Open spaces are for everyone

The proposal to impose a local levy for those living near parks may work in San Francisco, but any similar scheme in Britain would simply create a divide between the “haves” and “have nots” (“Would you pay ‘park tax’ to keep the grass cut, crime down – and your house price up?”, News).

Parks and open spaces are an essential part of any community. Access and enjoyment is open to all and is as much a part of health and wellbeing as a doctor’s surgery.

The risk of creating a parks levy is that those who pay it may well think they “own” the park, and not the community.

Clarence Barrett

Upminster, Essex

Series: Family life

Previous | Index

Family life: Postwar wedding joy, the Supremes, and Mum’s red spaghetti

Readers’ favourite photographs, songs and recipes

Snapshot Graham Sheath

Snapshot … Graham Sheath’s parents, Geoffrey and Ruth, just married in 1946.

Snapshot: Smiles on a postwar wedding day

It is a cold, rather wet, day in February 1946 a few months after the end of the second world war, and my parents, Ruth and Geoffrey, have just been married at Sandal Magna church near Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Behind them are some of the small wedding party: my maternal grandparents, Dad’s sister, the little boy who is my eldest cousin, and, almost hidden from view, an army friend, their best man. No doubt they are all heading home for a modest family celebration.

Early in the war, my grandparents’ home close by had been part-requisitioned for army use and it was there that my father, a young army officer, met my mother. Not long afterwards, he was posted to Burma and India, where he spent four years before returning home after VJ day: meanwhile, Mum joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, among other things driving ambulances. But the die was cast and they kept in touch.

Looking at the photo, I think of them bringing up my brother, sister and me in the difficult postwar years. Dad, like many of his generation, spoke little about the war. He died in 1983 and Mum survived him by more than 25 years until just short of her 91st birthday.

I delight at the smiles on their faces, which not only say so much about their personal happiness at being reunited, but also reflect the joy and relief that so many of their generation must have been feeling with the war behind them and the prospect of peace ahead.

Graham Sheath

Playlist: Mr F and my love supreme

Where Did Our Love Go by the Supremes

“Baby, baby / Baby don’t leave me / Ooh, please don’t leave me / All by myself”

Where Did Our Love Go.

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I grew up in a multi-storey block of flats in Birmingham, where my parents had trained me to walk quietly and keep my music down, so living the student life with my new “family” was exciting and liberating. They loved my parents too, who lived closest to college, so Mum and Dad often found at weekends that they had replaced one noisy daughter with a gaggle of them.

I played this Supremes single incessantly on my Dansette, to the delight of all except one seriously studious neighbour in my halls of residence. She asked to be transferred to another room when she returned in September. Her replacement loved the Supremes, so the students of J-block continued to bop along to their music.

One night, when I was rehearsing for a play at college, the record player was unplugged and removed from my room by a lecturer who lived on campus. She had clearly had enough. (How my mother would have sympathised.) I returned from rehearsal to find it gone, but my records left behind.

My vinyl collection has since moved home with me many times, and somewhere in the loft there still lies a finger-printed, scratched, beer-stained Supremes 45, waiting to be born again.

I’d always loved the Supremes but never got to see them live. During the 80s, my husband, remembering this story from my student days, secretly bought tickets for Diana Ross at the Royal Albert Hall. He didn’t let on who would be performing at the concert until we got there. Our daughter and dog had been sworn to secrecy.

I was thrilled that he had thought to organise such a fantastic surprise, particularly as his tastes were more Dylan than Diana. It was a wonderful night.

However, Mr F probably wished he hadn’t organised it when I turned into a groupie at the end and went forward with others to shake Miss Ross’s hand.

Barbara Fisher

We love to eat: Mum’s red spaghetti


Two handfuls of wholemeal spaghetti
A jar of tomato pasta sauce
Handful of ground almonds
Grated cheese

WLTE Sam Lunney Sam Lunney’s red spaghetti.

Cook the spaghetti and drain. Chop it up a little, so the spaghetti strands aren’t too long. Stir in the jar of tomato sauce, and then add in the ground almonds and grated cheese. All the amounts are rough, just add what you need to make it look balanced. It should be served with a green salad on the side.

Looking at the ingredients of this dish as an adult, it seems so simple. But as a child, this wasn’t just spaghetti and tomato sauce. It seemed to me that red spaghetti was tastier and more exciting than other kinds of spaghetti, and I used to often ask my mum to make it for dinner.

My mum had become a vegetarian several years before I was born, and she has always been interested in healthy eating. As I child I didn’t always want to eat things that were good for me, so she would sneak healthy things into my dinner whenever she could. This dish is a perfect example of that; brown pasta instead of white and some secret almonds I never knew were in there!

Sam Lunney


Newmarket is a dump (“Tory minister lines up with racing royalty against new homes”, 17 August). The High Street is dominated by betting shops and seedy nightclubs. Traffic is snarled up all morning while the trainers’ horses take priority.

Rather than recognise the reality of the modern world, and moving the horses out of town, the racing fraternity instead uses a supposed threat to the industry to oppose any development that might support growth and a rebalancing of the local economy to a broader and more productive base.

The billionaire stud-owners who oppose development in the town, and donate to Matthew Hancock’s local party, do not live in Newmarket, use its services, nor spend money there.

Hancock’s request to Eric Pickles to call in the Hatchfield Farm development is cynical and hypocritical, and clearly not in the best interests of those who live in Newmarket and the surrounding area. Still, the stable lad’s vote is worth as much as Kirsten Rausing’s. I hope come next May he will use it.

Rachael Padman

Newmarket, Suffolk

Laurence Phelan writes in “The acid test” (17 August) that LSD’s status as a Schedule I, Class A drug is not “an accurate reflection of the dangers it poses”. This is a big claim. We are often told the same thing about cannabis and yet anyone who has experience of mental-health units, drug rehabs, and other such hidden places, will tell you of the irreversible mental damage that psychoactive drugs often cause.

Also disturbing is Dr Robin Carhart-Harris on addiction: “Depression and addictions rest on reinforced patterns of brain activity, and a psychedelic will reintroduce a relative chaos.” I have met thousands of alcoholics and addicts. I cannot imagine that any would have benefited from the sort of treatment he proposes.

Addiction is deep disorder despite the “patterns” he mentions. Introducing further disorder is likely to be harmful, particularly for those in the early stages of recovery, which is when the “patterns” will still be most detectable.

Daniel De Simone

Ashtead, Surrey

General Sir Richard Shirreff’s observations (“A spineless lack of leadership”, 17 August) about absence of strategy don’t just apply to Iraq. Government has lost the art of statecraft. The Prime Minister is incapable of articulating our national interests in a form suitable for action.

The first thing David Cameron has to do in September, is come to the House and show leadership. Articulate our national interests, give his analysis of the nature of the problem of the Eastern Mediterranean and spell out how all government departments will strategically interact to achieve the desired outcome.

And he needs to do that with words which carry meaning, and plans that can be translated into actions. Our armed forces and our voters have a right to expect strategy and leadership from their Prime Minister.

Gisela Stuart

MP Birmingham Edgbaston, Defence Select Committee

Sarah Kane appears to have been under intolerable stress as a person unqualified to deal with high-risk offenders (“Chris Grayling accused of ‘murdering the probation service'” 17 August). A friend is experiencing the other side of these reforms. In his fifties with 30 years’ experience, he is one of several, similarly aged colleagues being given the sack. He would be pleased to be offered Sarah Kane’s job but, as a qualified professional at the top of his grade, he is probably too expensive. When considered with the simmering unrest in our jails, the falseness of these “economies” becomes alarming.

Sue Organ,

Chichester, West Sussex

King Richard III ate and drank in line with the times in which he lived. Many books and his coronation records state these facts, and are confirmed by this study. The headline “The Richard III diet revealed” (17 August) sounds more of a new Paleo diet rather than revealing the diet of King Richard III.

Joe Ann Ricca

Chief executive/president

The Richard III Foundation


Deirdre Kelly — ‘White Dee’ from the Channel 4 series Benefits Street — is to speak at the Tory party conference Deirdre Kelly — ‘White Dee’ from the Channel 4 series Benefits Street — is to speak at the Tory party conference

Reward marriage or face being divorced from social harmony

THE revelation of the scale of Britain’s underclass is only the tip of an iceberg that is lurking to shipwreck society (“Rise of new underclass costs £30bn”, News, last week).The impact of family failure is greater than is estimated by Louise Casey, the director-general of the government’s troubled families programme, and could mean every taxpayer paying more than £1,500 each year to pick up the pieces.

The problem can be traced to decades of dilution and dismantling of the value of marriage as the ideal family structure. Research shows that children deprived of their fathers have poorer life outcomes. Even where there is significant conflict in the marriage — except in extreme cases such as domestic violence — family life in a married household is better for the welfare and development of children.

However, the popular wisdom is that divorce in such situations is good for children. The prime minister has fallen for this myth when he says “divorce can sometimes be the best outcome for children”. Such a doctrine is a convenient excuse for parents to get what they want and absolves them of any guilt.

Couples intending to marry should consider a prenuptial agreement that they will seek counselling if they get into difficulty and that divorce will be only for the most serious reasons. The tax system could give real recognition to marriage. We should take measures to guard against the tsunami of social disintegration that is waiting to happen.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali Christian Concern,
London W1


The underclass problem stems from politicians buying votes with welfare or following a left-liberal agenda. There are howls of protest when there is any attempt to change or reduce welfare.

When I was a child it was a disgrace to go on to welfare — the shame encouraged people to work. Now there is no shame and some are feted as reality TV stars. Are not the Tories having “White Dee” (Deirdre Kelly from Channel 4’s Benefits Street) as a speaker at their party conference?

Those who find work are caught up in the race to the bottom, on minimum wages and zero-hours contracts with yet more welfare.
Graham Thoburn


I seem to recall that the Tory promise was for every family to have contact with a family case worker. The issue is not confined to the underclass.
Peter Copping


Presumably the word underclass is only used to describe poor dysfunctional families. There are plenty of rich dysfunctional ones too. This is another attempt to demonise the have-nots.
Barbara Devaney

We must unite to stop the march of Isis

WE ABHOR and reject the ideology and tactics of Isis, the so-called Islamic State. As British citizens we believe its message of hate, violence and evil should not divide us, nor should we allow it to create tensions in UK communities. Britain has a long and proud tradition of peaceful co-existence between people of different racial and religious backgrounds — a tradition that needs to be defended and upheld in these testing times.

We also believe mere condemnation of the actions of this group is not enough. We should all seek to do much more to challenge and discredit its poisonous narrative as well as undermine its propaganda efforts. We should also continue to work with the authorities in order to safeguard our national security and ensure the image of British Muslims, who are by and large upstanding members of society, is not adversely affected by the actions of Isis.

We need to confront the ideology of Isis head on and not be cowed by fears of being deemed politically incorrect or culturally insensitive. Let’s all stand up and be counted in this struggle.
Majid Nawaz, chairman of Quilliam and prospective parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn,
Khalid Mahmood MP, Perry Barr, Hafiz Yacoob al-Naqshbandi, Sara Khan,
co-director of Inspire, imam and Labour councillor (Luton), Dr Sheikh Irfan Allawi, executive director of Islamic Heritage Foundation, Zafar Choudary, the Azad Society, Fiyaz Mugha
l, director of Faith Matters, Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, director of the Association of British Muslims, Iram Ramzan, women’s rights activist, Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Gita Sahgal, executive director of Centre for Secular Space, Azhar Ali, prospective parliamentary candidate for Pendle, Saif Rehman, founder of Humanist Muslim and Cultural Muslim Association, Sheikh Musa Admani, imam of City University, Iram Ramzan, women’s rights activist, Hazel Blears MP, former secretary of state for communities and local government, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner


I differ from Tom Holland (“Eternal empire of the sword”, News Review, last week) in his opinion that ultimate victory over Isis cannot be secured militarily. This may be so but I cannot see how it can be done by an appeal to reason. One is dealing with an entity brainwashed into a medieval mindset by an extreme ideology.

If Isis is allowed to propagate itself, the consequences could be dire, certainly for the Middle East. We are partially responsible for the Iraq debacle and one hopes that arming the Kurds will enable some containment.
Brian Hardy
Gravesend, Kent


In return for a show of piety Islamic fundamentalism gives these people a licence to murder and plunder. For sociopathic types this is the point of their faith.

Reasoning, even with the Koran in hand, will not change a thing. They are lusting after power — and pointing it out is not going to turn them into peaceniks.

As such, Islamic extremism can only be crushed. My belief is that real Muslims — those inspired to charity and love by their religion — want us to crush it even more than we want to see it crushed.
San Toi


In your article “Sniper hid in bin to take deadly aim” (Focus, last week) you state: “Some officials estimate that Isis raises £2.7m a day selling oil from the dozens of fields under its control in Syria and Iraq.”

How is it selling this oil? Via what pipelines and what ships? Someone must know about this. Why is it being allowed to happen and who is making the profits, apart
from Isis?
Dr Ian Clements
Hove, East Sussex


Now America is bombing Isis, which is President Bashar al-Assad’s enemy, are we on Assad’s side along with Russia?
Kay Bagon
Radlett, Hertfordshire

It’s wrong to woo students with hand-outs

YOUR article “‘Bring a friend, earn £200’ — universities battle for students” (News, last week) highlights the lengths some institutions are going to in order to balance their books as they are forced to become commercial operations. Yet this recruitment jamboree is masking many problems. How many of these new applicants will pay back their student loans, for instance?

Perhaps more worrying is the growth of mental health problems that universities are expected, but are often struggling, to manage. Some of the young people enticed by the prospect of a few years of partying funded by their loans are already known to have significant psychological problems; indeed they are encouraged to disclose them in order to gain more financial support.

Others may arrive relatively healthy but fragile, enrolled on courses that they have little interest in and that will place academic demands on them different from anything they have experienced. This, combined with cheap alcohol provision and easy access to all manner of other substances, is for some a lethal combination.

Who is picking up the pieces? University counselling services do a fantastic job but cannot possibly cope with the increasing numbers of mentally troubled young people. The financial cost of student loans never repaid is likely to be the least of our problems. We owe it to our school-leavers not to entice them into an academic world for which many may not be prepared on the promise of cash or an iPad.
Kate Dunn, retired university counsellor



Congratulations to Carol Vorderman, one of my favourite women, for championing female mathematicians (“The disproving of sexism’s last theorem”, News Review, last week). At school I was head boy and excelled at science and maths, and was only beaten once at the latter — and that by a mere girl.
John McCall
By email


The brains of men and women are differently constructed. One or two remarkable women are not proof that women can think like men. In most cases quite minor talents are exaggerated in order to support a fallacy. Vorderman studied engineering but did not practise it. She made her career in something that was more congenial for her, doing elementary arithmetic quickly. In spite of her assertion to the contrary, it remains a fact that men are better at maths then women.
T Aldridge
Taunton, Somerset


Congratulations to Charles Clover for his robust article “Marine fish farming will kill jobs and glorious Hemingway moments” (Comment, last week). We have for years campaigned against open-net fish farms along the Scottish coast and there is a wealth of peer-reviewed scientific evidence on the negative impacts of the practice on wild salmon and sea trout populations. It beggars belief that government-funded bodies should therefore be supporting a move into open- net aquaculture in southwest England tidal waters without first being assured that the impacts of sea lice infestation on wild fish, escaped stock and the polluting effects of this method of production on local marine ecosystems have been addressed.
Richard Garner Williams
Salmon and Trout Association


Harry Mount’s article regarding the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s move to Anmer Hall (“Royal flush”, Home, last week) does not seem to have been well informed about Norfolk. Despite repeating the famous Noël Coward line, much of the county is not flat. If you want a county that’s flat, Cambridgeshire is a much better bet.

Second, the comment about Norfolk having little tactical advantage and thus no Norman castles apart from the one in Norwich is wrong. What about the castle keep at Castle Rising on the outskirts of King’s Lynn built after 1138 by an Anglo-Norman nobleman? Or the ruins and impressive earthworks at Castle Acre, built by William de Warenne, who came over with William the Conqueror.
Peter Webber
King’s Lynn, Norfolk


Just when I thought The Sunday Times was over its fixation with Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin and the overly self-regarding Martin Amis, we were hit with “I’ve done all the agonising” (Culture, last week). The coverage of Amis over the decades far outweighs his talent, and if he garners the same amount as the other two when he is gone, heaven help us.
Andrew Burdon
Stone, Staffordshire

Corrections and clarifications

In the article “It’s all bowing, scraping and undies plots — the glitzy life of a jihadist Wag” (News, last week) we referred to Lord Sugar in an article about Amal El-Wahabi, who was convicted for asking a friend to smuggle money to Syria at the demand of her husband, a fighter there. By stating that “even Lord Sugar doesn’t treat women as badly as this”, we did not intend to suggest that he does treat women badly or in a comparable way. We apologise to him for any distress caused.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)


Kenny Baker, actor (R2-D2), 80; AS Byatt, novelist, 78; Paulo Coelho, novelist, 67; Simon Dennis, rower, 38; Stephen Fry, writer, 57; Rupert Grint, actor, 26; Steve Guttenberg, actor, 56; Jean Michel Jarre, musician, 66; Linton Kwesi Johnson, poet, 62; Alexander McCall Smith, novelist, 66; Sam Torrance, golfer, 61


AD79 Vesuvius erupts, wiping out Pompeii; 1814 British troops torch the White House; 1875 Captain Matthew Webb begins first cross-Channel swim; 1990 Islamic Jihad releases writer Brian Keenan after holding him hostage in Lebanon for more than four years; 1991 Ukraine declares independence


Riveting yet elegaic: ‘The Honourable Woman’, with Maggie Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein  Photo: Des Willie

6:58AM BST 23 Aug 2014


SIR – Having endured the very slow-moving The Honourable Woman for weeks, I feel a massive relief it’s all over, and gone are the long pauses and poses of the main actors. But I still can’t decide if I enjoyed it or not.

Allan J Eyre

SIR – Dan Hodges says that the BBC licence fee does not represent value for money. My wife and I have had a wonderful year watching Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games and amazing dramas such as The Honourable Woman. We would gladly pay treble the fee for these delights.

James Ingram
Sandhurst, Berkshire

SIR – In these days of catch-up, those of us watching earlier episodes of The Honourable Woman didn’t really want to know from television reviewers the storyline of the penultimate episode, with the spoiler about the British agent.

The Government should not allow Bercow’s choice for the new Clerk to the Commons to prevail

Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Carol Mills

Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Carol Mills Photo: REX

6:59AM BST 23 Aug 2014


SIR – William Hague thinks that it would be “quite extraordinary” for the Government to block the Speaker’s recommendation for the post of Clerk to the Commons.

Surely it is even more extraordinary for John Bercow, the present Speaker, to recommend an unqualified candidate? The last Labour government had no hesitation in overriding constitutional traditions when it suited them. One would have hoped that this Government might have bent the traditional modus operandi of leaving this to the Speaker, in order to protect the well-established workings of the House of Commons.

Quentin Skinner
Warminster, Wiltshire

SIR – Thank goodness for Baroness Boothroyd, the former Speaker, and her efforts to insist that the next Clerk to the Commons should have appropriate constitutional expertise.

In a country without a written constitution such expertise is vitally important. To give a hopefully hypothetical example, imagine trying to cope with the fallout from a Yes vote in Scotland without the kind of able advice provided by Sir Robert Rogers and his predecessors.

Wendy Matthews

SIR – Can we not find a British candidate instead of head-hunting in Australia? Or would that be considered xenophobic?

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Japan on our side

SIR – Japan declared war on Germany on August 23 1914. A Japanese flotilla based at Malta gave the Royal Navy much assistance with anti-U boat patrols, escorting British troopships in the Mediterranean and rescuing many British soldiers whose ships had been attacked.

Their contribution should be recognised at this time of remembrance.

Major David Finnie (rtd)
Kennett, Cambridgeshire

Opera buffoon

SIR – I remember that at a dress rehearsal at Glyndebourne an alarm clock went off in the stalls and the curtain had to be brought down (Letters, August 21). I am still wondering why anyone would take an alarm clock into an opera.

Diana Crook
Seaford, East Sussex

Border control fiasco

SIR – Alasdair Palmer writes that an “e-border” control system will not work when a border official mis-types someone’s name.

There is no typing involved. A passport is identified by a bar code. A machine similar to the one at the supermarket checkout records the identity of the passport coming in or going out. The official should also check that the passport was issued to the person carrying it. If it is a British passport the bar code reader can summon to the official’s computer screen the photograph taken when the passport was issued. This should correspond both to the photograph printed on the passport and to the person’s facial features.

How a person chooses to spell his or her name is immaterial. The machinery only has to work a few hundred thousand times a day: a trivial number compared with the transactions of a supermarket or a bank.

Philip Roe
St Albans, Hertfordshire

SIR – Alasdair Palmer refers to the millions of pounds lost by the Government through the cancellation of computer programs that do not work as intended.

From my own experience, I have found that the reason this occurs is that those in charge of such projects insist on having a new program written especially for the particular job.

There is nothing particularly complicated about recording when visitors enter Britain, how long they stay and when they leave. However the writing of a new computer program means using millions of lines of instructions, and it takes a long time to “debug” them.

That is why they fail. In any case, most of the requirements that the client thinks he or she will need are, in fact, unnecessary.

Tony Silverman
Edgware, Middlesex

Uncaring care homes

SIR – Perhaps Norman Lamb, the care minister, should visit my mother. He would see that her room in a new purpose-built care home is filled with her possessions and “homely”.

However, on closer inspection he’d notice that she needs a bath or shower, that her teeth are probably not clean, the bedclothes need changing, the room needs a good clean and her own clothes need a good wash. I know exactly where the focus needs to be in our care homes, and it is not on the furnishings.

Elizabeth Leeman
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

Hung up on 111

SIR – You report that the Government wishes to encourage us to dial 111 for medical problems that do not require treatment in hospital.

Before doing so, it would be good to be told the percentage of callers who ring off before they get to the end of the incredibly onerous set of questions demanded by the current 111 call centre operators.

Chris Fairgrieve
Fordingbridge, Hampshire

Clean fight

SIR – I have just purchased a pack of “Ultimate Cleaning Cloths” from my local DIY store. On the pack it states “Warning:do not use as any sort of weapon.”

While I realise it would be breaking this sound health and safety advice, perhaps the world’s superpowers could rid themselves of their nuclear arsenals and stockpile dishcloths instead. They were only 50p for a pack of three.

Martin Horsfall
Newick, East Sussex

Blame the EU for dog hairs on the carpet

SIR – I read with consternation that the EU has now ruled that we can only purchase ineffective vacuum cleaners. Two things come to mind: first, many EU countries are in warm climes and do not have carpets; and secondly I have two heavy-coated dogs, so a powerful vacuum cleaner is a necessity.

If I am forced to buy a weak vacuum cleaner I will spend much more time using it, with a negative impact on carbon emission reduction.

Celia Smith
Lymm, Cheshire

SIR – As a retired chartered engineer, I am perplexed by the EU Commission’s edict that vacuum cleaners will have their maximum power output cut drastically.

Let’s say cleaning a bedroom carpet requires the energy expenditure of 100 kWh. With my present machine of 2kw that’ll take me three minutes. A machine of half the power will take twice as long but with the same energy expenditure.

With vacuum-cleaner technology already at its innovation horizon what do the EU Commissioners have in mind? The abolition of dust?

Seamus Hamill-Keays
Llansantffraed, Breconshire

SIR – The thinking behind the ban on vacuum cleaners in excess of 1600W is as flawed as that which required the reduction in volume of modern lavatory cisterns to save water. Without going into detail, most people appreciate that it is now often necessary to flush a lavatory twice, thereby using more water not less.

Tim Lemon
Irby, Wirral

A video of American jounalist James Foley’s execution at the hands of Islamic State militants was released on Tuesday Photo: Steven Senne/AP

7:00AM BST 23 Aug 2014


SIR – If the Islamist jihadist who carried out the brutal act of beheading James Foley is British, then his family and friends in Britain must already know his identity.

If they truly want to be part of a peaceful British society then they must declare his identity to the authorities, as should the family and friends of others fighting for Isil.

Brian Higgins
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – I am not convinced that the answer to the problem of young Muslim men being converting to the Islamist cause lies with outsiders. These men have been nurtured within a Muslim society in their homes and mosques.

If Muslim communities abhor the atrocities committed in the name of their religion, why do they not preach hellfire and damnation loudly all over the world so that the jihadist young men have no doubt they are rejected by their own people?

23 Aug 2014

Joyce Chadwick
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

SIR – Over-optimism is always foolish but so is excessive pessimism. The Islamic State has had sweeping recent success. But it is flawed for the long term in three areas.

All successful movements of this kind have had a protector state: the Vietcong, North Vietnam; the Taliban, Pakistan; al-Qaeda, Afghanistan. The Islamic State is surrounded by enemies: Turkey, Kurdistan, Shia Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. It has no nation-state friends.

It has attracted the weird, sadistic, insane, greedy – all fair-weather friends. How many will stick around when defeat and death become almost guaranteed?

It has stolen Iraqi currency and weapons, but these will run out. It cannot manufacture to replace losses.

It has not yet really met the terrible destructive force and accuracy of Western air power. This can and must be rectified without delay.

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – While the West is reluctant to put boots on the ground, will Iran stand and watch if the holiest Shia shrines of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq are attacked by Islamic State fighters? What is our view about Iranian forces occupying Iraq?

Bob Whittington
Frant, East Sussex

SIR – Britain 100 years ago faced an avalanche of asylum seekers. More than 200,000 Belgians fled the German army. Many would not have spoken English; many were Catholics. Local councils were encouraged to form committees to find accommodation. In Bristol, a train-load of refugees was welcomed by a crowd.

The people of Syria are an ancient and civilised society, and themselves provided asylum for Christian Armenians in the last century. We should be deeply ashamed if we cannot do as much again for those who flee from tyranny in our time.

John Littler

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – I was privileged to be among the congregation at a Mass held in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on the first Sunday in August marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.

It was heartening to hear Archbishop Diarmuid Martin refer to those Irish men (his uncle was one) as “having fought with great courage in the defence of an ideal”.

Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan, who also attended, correctly said afterwards that it was “most regrettable” that the Irish war dead were “airbrushed from history”.

Sadly there is another cohort of Irish men who “fought with great courage” for the same ideal – the promise of Home Rule and devolved government – and who are still “airbrushed from history”.

They served the community faithfully in the decades leading up to independence, as the record will justly testify, until they found themselves suddenly on the wrong side of history. The record shows that over 500 members of the RIC and 14 members of the DMP died violently between 1916 and 1922.

The writer Sean O Faolain, whose father Denis Whelan served with the RIC in Cork City, said of this bloody period: “Men like my father were dragged out in those years and shot – so be it. Shot to inspire terror – so be it. But they were not traitors – they had their loyalties and they stuck to them.”

However despite our lobbying efforts over several years, there seems to be no apparent appetite among our politicians to have a memorial erected to these men or even to have an official commemoration for them, a matter of major disappointment to their legions of descendants (85,000 men served in the RIC and the predecessor force).

Nonetheless our small ad hoc group of retired gardai has taken up the cudgels where official Ireland has failed. We will be holding our second annual interdenominational commemoration service at the church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin 6 next Saturday, August 30, at 2.30pm. All are welcome, especially anyone who had relatives in either force.

Gerard Lovett,

Hon Sec RIC/DMP 
Commemoration Committee,

Knocklyon, Dublin 16

Women change, men don’t

Madam – How long is Rosanna Davison married?

A couple of months at a guess – and now she is an expert on relationships. Good for her if she is able to get around the daily domestic grind without having to nag her husband to put out the rubbish when he is in his “man cave”. She picks up his towels and socks. Will she still be doing this when she is cleaning up after the kids? It’s hard to train an old dog new tricks.

In today’s modern world I thought it was all about compromise and sharing the domestic duties.

While it’s lovely to spoil our menfolk, I would tread carefully A woman marries a man expecting he will change – but he doesn’t. A man marries a woman expecting she won’t change – and she does.

Mary McKenna


Co Kilkenny

What will Rosanna say in 40 years?

Madam – We are 40 years married this month, so I was amused to read Rosanna Davison’s recipe for a happy marriage after only a few months!

Perhaps you could ask her again in 40 years.

Patricia Keeley,

Dublin 6W

Few agree on the size of the pay gap

Madam – Your report last weekend (Sunday Independent 17 August 2014) wrongly claimed that there is a huge gap between public and private sector pay, and failed to explain the moderate gap that really exists.

The report didn’t mention that the CSO figures it quoted do not include the so-called public service ‘pension levy,’ which reduces public service incomes by an average 7.5pc.

Neither did it mention the CSO’s disclaimer that its comparisons of public and private ‘average’ pay are not comparisons of rewards for the same or similar jobs. That’s because they don’t take account of responsibilities, qualifications, experience or educational attainment, all of which are higher on average in the public than the private sector.

Economists and other researchers disagree on the size and significance of the public-private pay gap. The most balanced study of recent years was done by the CSO in 2012. It looked at ways of calculating the gap and concluded that, depending on how it’s measured, it could be as little as zero or as much as 12pc once the pension levy is factored in.

Recent pay increases in many parts of the private sector – which are both welcome and overdue – are no doubt narrowing the gap. But there is no divide between public and private sector workers.

Pay increases are badly needed in all sectors of the economy, both to improve dented living standards and to support the fragile recovery by getting people spending in the local economy again.

Bernard Harbor

Head of Communications

IMPACT trade union

Dublin 1.

No reliable data on public/private pay

Madam- The report you carried in last week’s Sunday Independent by Daniel McConnell, on the so-called salary gap between private and public sector workers, represents the worst kind of stoop down low journalism. Of course, by referring to CSO figures, you claim some form of divine legitimacy. Can I respond?

The CSO, along with the ERSI, are government funded and ultimately government controlled bodies. The ERSI in particular disgraced itself during the Celtic-bubble years by cheer-leading the illusory economic miracle. We have no independent, economic data gathering body.

On the direct matter you addressed last week: what does the CSO, and the Sunday Independent mean, by “private”?

Does this refer to the profits generated by multi-national companies and taken from this country by millionaire and billionaire owners and shareholders?

Does it refer to privately employed people that have a large range of perfectly legitimate means of avoiding taxation?

Do you consider that a publicly employed and highly trained doctor or nurse should be compared to a minimally trained person who works on a till in Aldi, or a person that serves coffee in one of the notoriously tax avoidant international coffee chains?

When one factors in the reality that private industry in Ireland is lightly taxed (to put it mildly), and that public sector workers, as well as suffering swingeing pay cuts, have no means of avoiding tax, the reality is we are very much worse off than the private sector as a whole.

As a public sector worker I would love to pay a notional 12pc of my income in tax, and would then gladly pay an accountant to assist me bring that 12pc down to 5pc, as so many private sector companies do here.

So, please Sunday Independent, play fair and stop promoting hatred of public workers, we aren’t the enemy you insist on making us out to be.

Declan Doyle

Lisdowney, Kilkenny

We should listen 
to McCarthy

Madam – In his article of August 17, Colm McCarthy warns us that “with debt still rising, pay hike talks are unnerving”. He is also giving us the sobering advice that “it will be at least a decade before the public purse can bear pay increases – not before.”

He may be a pain in the face but Colm McCarthy has the unhappy knack of being right.

Way back during the tiger years he was one of the few who warned of the dangers of the policies that were being followed then. In contrast to his warnings the message from media in general during the boom could be summed up by saying that everything is getting better and better and we should not pay too much attention to “whingers”.

Well, Colm McCarthy was one of the whingers back a decade ago or more – and how right he was. He is now telling us that we had what he calls a “Demolition Derby for budgetary prudence” before elections during the boom. We are paying for that now in austerity.

Despite the austerity, however, he tells us that “outstanding debt” as a percentage of national income is “a whopping 140pc”.

That may be unnerving and we may not like it but we cannot say we were not warned – for a second time.

A Leavy,


Dublin 13

Senator disagrees with Harris view

Madam – It is regrettable that former Senator Eoghan Harris, in his Sunday Independent column, chose to tackle the speaker and not the substance when I called on the Government to clarify, if the view of a former Taoiseach – that the 1916 Rising was “completely unnecessary” – was also the current Government position.

This statement by John Bruton has upset the relatives and descendants of those who struggled and many who died to achieve the ideals of the Proclamation – “equal rights and equal opportunities, civil and religious liberties” – certainly aims worth achieving and not at all “unnecessary”.

As to the unwarranted attack by your columnist on me, I will have to borrow a quote from your letter of the week last week – one of the over 250,000 descendants of the Easter Rising, and someone who was also insulted by your columnist. “To be insulted by you is to be garlanded with lilies’

Senator Mark Daly,

Leinster House,

Kildare St, Dublin 2

Let’s cut out the name-calling

Madam – I agree with your correspondent, Donal Lynch’s implication that the State broadcaster should not have to provide “the alternative perspective” every time gay marriage is discussed on the air in any programme.

Personally I feel that marriage is between a man and a woman and that gay marriage is a step too far. I certainly agree to civil partnerships to protect the rights of gay couples.

I object strongly to your correspondent’s description of myself and others with the same feelings as anti-marriage cranks. If in the future an anti- gay marriage discussion takes place and there are gay people who object if an “alternative perspective” is not provided, will your correspondent describe them as pro-marriage cranks?

James Purcell,

Balbriggan, Co Dublin

Brendan made me think of home

Madam – I loved Brendan O’Connor’s newsletter from West Cork. Here I am working hard in Pittsburgh, and could definitely be brought back to West Cork and Bishopstown and Innishannon and Baltimore.

One of these days we will take a trip home again.

Thanks for sharing it.

Dorothy Murray,

Pittsburgh, USA.

Thanks Brendan for the memories

Madam – Coming from Cork, a native of Cloughduv, my homeplace is not very far from Brendan O’Connor’s route from Bandon into Innishannon.

I have lived in Melbourne for the last six years and long for Cork and the trappings of summer. Brendan has described the trip to the mother’s place perfectly, and in the process made me very homesick. I want to thank him for this article and all the other great articles he writes.

The only thing missing from the article was the Bandon butter on the homemade bread with coleslaw to make it a true heart attack on the plate.

For a son of Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh, he has a terribly good way with the English language!

Ronan Creedon,



Niamh’s critics missed the point

Madam – I am writing in defence of Niamh Horan and the article she recently wrote about women’s rugby (Sunday Independent August 10).

What happened afterwards, mostly on Twitter was a storm in a teacup. People took offence with some of the imagery used in the article, for example, “these are not butch, masculine, beer-swilling, men-hating women.”

Anyone with cop-on can see 
this statement for what it is: a 
light-hearted poke at cliched beliefs that a minority of people hold about women who partake in this sport.

Sometimes the best way to expose the use of language in this way is to bring it into the open as Niamh has done and let people see how ridiculous it is. In this age of politically correct speech we can sometimes lose the run of ourselves and throw the baby out with the bath water.

I enjoyed the article and am delighted to read in her follow-up piece that she is not for turning despite the brouhaha created by people on social media who more than likely have little else to do with their time. To quote her from last Sunday, “no matter how big the wall of opposition becomes, never ever back down from being true to who you are.”

Keep up the good work Niamh and I look forward to future articles where at least you get down and dirty in your research unlike many of the armchair naysayers,

Tommy Roddy,


Niamh’s advice is appreciated

Madam – Niamh Horan, in response to the women’s rugby controversy, wrote last weekend (Sunday Independent, August17, 2014) the following: “During our encounter, the rugby players taught me about physical strength, so I can now return the favour in moral strength.

“No matter how big the wall of opposition becomes, never ever back down from being true to who you are. I would rather be hated for what I am, than liked for what I’m pretending to be”

Very wise words from this young lady. Bravo Niamh! Bravo!

Brian Mc Devitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Niamh’s column a welcome relief

Madam – Kudos to Niamh Horan (August 17) for her robust (and humorous) rebuke to the online antagonists who railed against her following an article published in the previous week’s paper – a light-hearted piece on a day spent training with the Railway Union women’s rugby team.

It escaped the attention of many that the article was about women who happened to play rugby and not about the game itself; the clue – it wasn’t in the sports section.

The Sunday Independent is the most diverse newspaper in the Irish market, with its broad range of news stories and opinion pieces. Niamh’s column brings a welcome relief from some of the more depressing news from across the globe. She has also shown pluck as a reporter such as when she confronted Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely after a chance encounter while on holiday.

I suspect that many of the self-righteous, self-appointed guardians of political correctness use their spare time scanning newspapers looking for offence.

As for me, next week after reading about some outrage or other, I will relax and read Niamh’s column.

John Bellew,

Dunleer, Co Louth

Attack on Niamh was ‘bizarre’

Madam – It is difficult not to be utterly bemused by the bizarre storm in a thimble that blew up in response to Niamh Horan’s light-hearted piece (Aug 10) about a day spent with a women’s rugby team.

As for those who have reacted so negatively to Ms Horan’s article, they have done themselves no favours and have made themselves look ridiculous in the eyes of people of common sense – maybe no bad thing.

Congratulations to the team on their outstanding achievement in defeating New Zealand, generally considered to be one of the world’s best.

Hugh Gibney,


Co Meath

Sunday Independent


August 23, 2014

23 August 2014 Tomatoes

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I sort out books and tomatoes

Scrabble: Mary wins, but gets just under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.

109 Games Mary win 58 John 52


Helen Bamber – obituary

Helen Bamber was a campaigner for victims of torture who found her vocation, aged 19, caring for survivors of Belsen

Helen Bamber

Helen Bamber Photo: PA

6:26PM BST 22 Aug 2014


Helen Bamber, who has died aged 89, travelled alone, at the age of 19, to care for survivors of the Nazi concentration camp at Belsen; after two years in Germany she returned to Britain where she established her own foundation to care for victims of torture.

Founded in 1985, her Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture is the only British charity that works exclusively with torture victims, helping them to rebuild their lives, and is the largest such organisation in the world. Since its foundation it has dealt with more than 50,000 victims from more than 90 countries around the world, from Kosovo to Sierra Leone and Congo, and from Iraq to Argentina and Sri Lanka.

The daughter of Jews of Polish extraction, she was born Helen Balmuth in north London on May 1 1925. She had a difficult, unhappy childhood. During the 1930s her father, Louis Balmuth, became fixated on the rise of fascism and saw it as his mission to educate his daughter about the threat. He read to her from Hitler’s Mein Kampf at bedtime and made her listen to speeches by Goebbels on the radio, to show her how easily language and public opinion could be manipulated. “I was well aware that we would be annihilated,” she recalled. “By the time I was 10 I knew it all.”

Her fun-loving mother, Marie, had been forced into an arranged marriage and was disappointed by life and by her husband. The family was often broke, and Helen, a sickly child who suffered repeated bouts of bronchitis, often took refuge in her bedroom to avoid her parents’ violent quarrels. On one occasion she recalled coming home and, finding that her parents were out, fantasised that they might be dead.

In her late teens Helen found work as a secretary and administrator to the National Association of Mental Health, which treated returning soldiers and airmen. There she gained considerable insight into trauma, and in 1945 she defied her mother and volunteered for the Jewish Relief Unit, a small group of health and other professionals sent under the auspices of the UN to work with Holocaust survivors. After some rudimentary training, she was made personal assistant to the director of the JRU and dispatched to Belsen.

Helen Bamber, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (PA)

By the time she arrived, the main camp had been razed and the 12,000 survivors had been moved into a nearby barracks, where Helen and her colleagues were put in charge of distributing food and clothing. Many inmates had died from typhus, and she recalled the dank smell that pervaded the camp, “like the sweet smell of geraniums if you crush them”.

At first she felt useless in the face of so much suffering, but gradually she realised that, while she could not change the past, she could at least listen. “People wanted to tell their story and I was able to receive it,” she told an interviewer from The Observer in 2008. “They would hold me and dig their fingers in and rasp this story out… They would rock back and forth and I would say to them, ‘I will tell your story. Your story will not die.’ It took me a long time to realise that that was all I could do.”

When Belsen had first been liberated by the British Army, there was an outpouring of horror and compassion. But most survivors had nowhere to go. Those who tried to return to the homes they had left were met with hostility by local people who had moved in. Nor were they welcome as refugees. Many remained in Belsen until 1950, and sometimes their anger and frustration spilt over into attacks on relief workers. As a result they became seen as a nuisance by the military authorities in control of the camp: “They changed from being creatures for compassion to being irritating people — displaced persons who had nowhere to go,” Helen Bamber recalled. “And that I found very frightening as a young person, watching those attitudes change.”

After two-and-a-half years at Belsen, Helen returned to Britain, which was then beginning to admit the first child survivors of the concentration camps. She began to work as a counsellor to the children, recalling “their stony little faces, giving nothing back, their sceptical eyes — a complete lack of trust”. She found that she could get through to them by persuading them to reconnect with good memories of earlier childhood. She would get them to draw or paint, and ask them about the games they had played with their parents and the food they had enjoyed.

A harder task was to find schools or employers willing to take them on in a post-war Britain which was preoccupied with its own problems. On one occasion she was interviewed by a headmaster who asked her in all innocence: “Didn’t they give them any books to read in those camps?”

Soon after returning from Belsen, Helen married Rudi Bamberger, a German-Jewish refugee who changed his name to the more “British” Bamber. In 1950, looking for a more settled life, she began working as a hospital administrator at St George’s in Wapping.

While she continued to hold down a series of jobs — as an almoner (social worker) at Middlesex Hospital, administrator at the Middlesex and personal assistant to the orthopaedic surgeon Sir Herbert Seddon — she could not forget her experiences of dealing with victims of the Nazis. In 1958, horrified by accounts of the use of torture by the French in Algeria, she joined Amnesty International, the organisation which publicises the plight of prisoners of conscience.

Over the next three decades she became one of Amnesty’s most passionate volunteers. She helped to set up a medical section, with a group of specialists prepared to examine asylum-seekers claiming to be torture victims, documenting their experiences and lobbying against regimes which condoned experiments on patients in prison hospitals.

She began her Foundation in 1985, initially with a grant from the UN Voluntary Fund, operating out of two rooms in an abandoned hospital in north London with one part-time assistant and a typewriter. From these small beginnings it grew into a centre staffed by more than 100 professionals, full-time and volunteer, treating more than 2,500 survivors a year.

Among those she counselled were a group of septuagenarian former prisoners of the Japanese. The ex-PoWs were rural Northumbrians to whom she was introduced by one of their number, Eric Lomax, in a Northumberland pub. They were initially wary of the stranger from London until she began talking about her own experiences in Belsen, and they began to open up. Later she would advise Colin Firth on his depiction of Lomax’s character in The Railway Man (2013), the film based on his bestselling autobiography of the same name.

Helen Bamber (centre) with former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (left) and Emma Thompson (PA)

In June 1993, though Jewish, Helen Bamber went to Israel and testified on behalf of a Palestinian prisoner who had confessed under torture by the Israeli security forces to being a member of Hamas. Her testimony led to the most serious charges against the man being dropped — one of very few successful challenges to confession evidence in the tens of thousands of cases heard during the Intifada.

Helen Bamber stepped down as director of her Foundation in 2002 to concentrate on her work with patients. In 2005 she set up the Helen Bamber Foundation, to expand her work with torture survivors to include those who had suffered other forms of human rights violations, such as human trafficking and gender-based violence.

A biography of her by Neil Belton, The Good Listener: Helen Bamber, A Life Against Cruelty, was published in 1999. She was named European Woman of Achievement in 1993 and appointed OBE in 1997.

Helen Bamber acknowledged the irony that, even though she had helped thousands of victims of torture, the one person she had not been able to help was her own husband. As a child he had seen his father beaten to death by German storm troopers; his mother had perished with most of his family in the camps.

He was so deeply scarred by his own past that he found it difficult to relate to his wife’s comparatively fortunate upbringing, and they found it impossible to discuss the Holocaust. They divorced in 1970, though they remained friends until he died. The thought of her inability to help him continued to move Helen Bamber to tears.

Their two sons survive her.

Helen Bamber, born May 1 1925, died August 21 2014


I agree with much of Ian Birrell’s exposition and most of his conclusions in his piece on the Middle East (James Foley’s brutal death shows we can’t solve Iraq, 21 August). I cannot, however, agree when he describes our foreign policy as “confused”. It seems to me not so much confused as short-term, short-sighted and utterly self-centred.

We back repressive regimes because they are mostly secular, we back the Saudis because they sell us oil and buy our weapons, we back Israel because the US does, we fail to back Mohamed Morsi in Egypt because he is not at all secular. To put it simply, our politicians love to keep us in a state of fear (and Islam is currently the chief bogeyman), the big companies love making money and we will do anything the US asks. The policies are deeply flawed, but “confused”? I don’t think so.
Nick Shepherd

• You say “there is no action without reaction in the Middle East” (Editorial, 21 August). But those who perhaps fear reaction will also often fear to act.

Fifteen years ago, in Chicago, Tony Blair presented his now famous speech, dedicated to the cause of “internationalism versus isolationism”. Prompted by the evils of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, it set down a series of key principles for international cooperation and intervention which are still valid today.

In particular it laid a framework of goals for the 21st century: cementing solidarity between the EU and US; recognising and supporting a democratic Russia; understanding the pace of globalisation as “also a political and security phenomenon”; and encouraging the spread of democracy, particularly under the impetus of “centre and centre-left politics”.

However, two years later, the attack on the World Trade Center vividly symbolised the vulnerability of global capitalism and western values when attacked by the forces of fanatical, theatrical nihilism. This diabolical “action” has clearly triggered a chain reaction that is still unravelling. Whatever “action” we have taken since then and will take in future will only win if there is a unity of purpose. Those international agencies – military, political and economic – highlighted in Blair’s doctrine, must at last begin to pursue a new and common action.

The pursuit of freedom and democracy, under a binding commitment to the UN’s universal declaration of human rights, would be a good start. Opting out ought not to be an option, regardless of the reaction.
Mike Allott
Eastleigh, Hampshire

• In the 1930s and 1940s in Europe, many young men turned to fascism, radicalised by the simplistic notion of a future homeland where a pure fascistic ideology would reign supreme. Our present commentary is failing us all, especially Muslims. “Terrorist”, “jihadist”, “extreme Islamist”, “radical Muslim” – essentially these are all manifestations of a psychology and emotional impulse which, transcending skin colour or religious affiliation, is identical to that of earlier fascists.

Those fascists also performed savage killings of helpless non-combatant hostages pour encourager les autres. If we can change our “running commentary” to one which – without equivocation, appeasement or a futile desire to “understand” – calls a fascist a fascist, then we will free ourselves, including the hapless “Muslim community”, which we have patronised and ghettoised, to combat more lucidly and effectively the sinister force which unadorned fascism remains.
Hugh Hetherington
Sandwich, Kent

• Western leaders are in denial. They refuse to acknowledge that Saudi Arabia and its kleptocratic rulers have further destabilised the Middle East with their playing of the destructive sectarian card against “apostate” Shias. The result was the regular targeting of Iraq’s Shia pilgrims and their shrines by Sunni jihadists. Now it’s the turn of Iraq’s Christians and Yazidis. Saudi Arabia would also have the west go to war with Iran rather than seek rapprochement.

William Hague foolishly aligned the UK with the Saudis by supporting Syria’s Sunni jihadist insurgents. No wonder British Sunni militants flocked to Syria and now Iraq. That some will return as trained terrorists is a legitimate worry. It’s called blowback. The terrorists posing a threat to the west are Sunni, not Shia. Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah and Iran are not our enemy.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

• At the end of your leader on Isis you list concerted international efforts which you say will aid the disappearance of this so-called Islamic State, including various actions in Iraq and Syria. Missing from your list is the one issue which has been responsible over a far longer period than the others for the distrust of the west felt by most Arabs, not just Islamic extremists – the kneejerk support for Israel from America, the UK and the rest of Europe in its 66-year campaign to deny the rights of Palestinians to a country in which they once formed 90% of the population. Your reported summary of radical Twitter accounts – “Why does the world get so excited when an American is killed when dozens are killed in Gaza?” – says it all. And this represents the views of many non-extreme Arabs, but the west chooses to ignore them and believes that the other issues identified in your leader are more important. There will be no change in Arab attitudes to the west until there is a fundamental shift away from the widespread and unquestioning political support for Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians.
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History

Newbold on Stour, Warwickshire

• I was interested to read in your lead story (Manhunt for a British murderer with hostages’ fate in his hands, 21 August) that experts in linguistics now feel qualified to pass judgment on the brutalisation of British-born jihadists. I had always understood linguistics to be a science, whose practitioners were notoriously disinclined to pass prescriptive judgments, even on issues that properly fell within their purview, such as common usage, regional accents, dialects and so on. Am I to understand that these same practitioners have now occupied territory previously belonging to moral philosophers, or is this a case of ideology sneaking into science under the cover of darkness?
Professor Malcolm Read
Belper, Derbyshire

• Vital legislative work is needed at the very start of the new parliamentary session – not least of which should be new powers to strip identified Britons involved in the so-called Islamic State of British citizenship, making it unlawful to re-enter the UK.
David Delamere

• The uncomfortable fact we need to face up to is that British terrorists are a home-grown problem. Our multicultural policies and faith schools don’t work. The only way to defeat it is here in Britain. We must create a solid secular society where all our citizens flourish and to which they can feel loyal. Not some sepia-covered throwback to post-second-world-war sentimentality, but a muscular forward-looking, inclusive, society based on our real needs.

This means, as a start, secular education and a fair and just democratic settlement in England and for the UK parliament, both houses, such as we have enabled in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Immigrant groups will always have sentimental attachments to their countries of origin. We need to be seen to be fair and just abroad too. And while we must respect cultural customs in minorities, we should only respect those which accord with our laws and civil liberties. That must go for Christian groupings too. The way forward is not to deride and ban religion, as some suggest, but to build a national project based on belief in ourselves that we can all get behind no matter what our differences.

Lastly, it would be good to hear from the young, integrated and women as spokespeople from these immigrant communities. The more traditional members should think again about the raising of their boys, particularly, in this society. It is no good just blaming the host nation.
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxfordshire

Steven Pinker (10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s ok to break (sometimes), 15 August) is critical, not without justification, of those who draw parallels with Latin usage to construct rules for English grammar. But when he says that if we follow Latin usage we should be saying “Woe is I” he might have chosen a rather better example to make his case. It was early in my Latin studies that I was taught the accusative of exclamation – “O me miserum” – which translates as “O wretched me” and not “O wretched I” at all.
Robert Charlesworth
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

• The letters on prepositions at the end of a sentence (Letters, 18 August) reminded of the occasion when Diana Dors was being introduced as a celebrity at a charitable function. The chairman related how, when he first greeted Dors, he could tell by the look in her eyes that she was thinking: “Here’s a man I would like to be made love to by.” Dors replied: “Ladies and gentlemen, your chairman must realise that, even in my private thoughts, I would never end a sentence with two prepositions.”
Jeff Lewis
Exmouth, Devon

• Steven Pinker’s argument will not convince me that “10 items or less” is OK. In this case, the “less/fewer” word is qualifying a set of discrete objects. In the case of “less than 21 years old” it is qualifying someone’s age, which is a continuous quantity; “21 years” is a threshold, not a set of objects. Seems obvious to me.
Chris Paice
Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

• I am annoyed by the habit of avoiding the word “me” even when it is called for, as in: “Thank you for taking John and I to lunch.” I am told by people who prefer this form that they feel the word “me” sounds uncomfortable, or too self-referential, and they refuse to use the test of removing the other person – would you say: “Thank you for taking I to lunch”? Yet this rule is broken time and time again in both written and spoken speech.
Jill Evans

• I was always taught that you never put “from” in front of “whence” because that word was made up of “from where” and so it was like saying “from from where”. Yet I have seen “from whence” used by many a reputable writer. Any answers?
Anne Abbott

• The parent who took the wrong book for a bedtime story was asked: “What did you bring the book I didn’t want to be read to out of up for?”
Brian Magson

• As any fule kno, “which” alongside “that” in the “Render unto Caesar… ” verses actually occurs in the Great Bible of 1539, if not earlier.
Richard Pickvance

• I am 71, so that may be indicative, but I was taught that “who” always referred to a living person while “that” relates to objects or animals. So I can’t understand why the Guardian (the only paper I read so can’t comment on any other) consistently uses “that” when referring to a person/people – for example: name/he/she/it/they “that” did something or other/wore something/went somewhere or other. It really irritates me. Is there an explanation for this?
Carole Underwood
Kendal, Cumbria

• Steven Pinker’s article was both fascinating and infuriating to a stickler like me (or should I have said “such as I”?) and I was interested in his discussion of the use of “like” and “such as”. However, what gets my goat is the increasing use of “as such” in place of “therefore” (eg “The rules have changed. As such, you must now… ”). This is creeping into official and academic documents. Where did it come from? (Or should I have asked “From where did it come?”)
Roger Bayston

• “Me” in “woe is me” is a survival of the dative form; it means “to me”, so no one was saying that they were woe.
Jeff Lewis

Your editorial (18 August) confirms the inadequacy of the Irish Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. But another shocking aspect of the case is that the young woman in question was legally forced to have a caesarian section at 25 weeks’ gestation. Although babies of this gestation can now survive with modern neonatal intensive care, the neonatal death rate is still high and the risk of handicap considerable. The effect on this young woman, allegedly raped in her own country, who asked for an abortion at eight weeks and was suicidal, of a forced caesarian can only increase her feeling of helplessness – another assault on her body. This case suggests that Irish doctors are living in the past century. Legal cases in the US in the 1980s and UK in the 1990s confirmed a woman’s right to refuse a caesarian even if that meant the death of the foetus or her own death. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act should be repealed.
Wendy Savage
Doctors For a Woman’s Right to Abortion

Your editorial of 21 August, Rennard: wrong call, implying Lord Rennard’s guilt of sexual harassment, is a betrayal of the core principle of the presumption of innocence. Since when did the Guardian support convicting people on the basis of accusations rather than evidence? In Rennard’s case, a police investigation concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant sending a file to the CPS or bring any charges. An internal party investigation by an independent QC found insufficient evidence to bring any charges or to hold a hearing.

Compare the Rennard case with that of Nigel Evans MP. In Evans’s case the allegations were more serious and, after a police investigation, nine charges were brought against him. A jury found Evans not guilty.

I have read your coverage of the Evans verdict carefully. Nowhere can I find an editorial implying that Evans was guilty. Indeed, you suggested that the “CPS may be too willing to bring charges when evidence is not very strong”. Why is there now an editorial on Rennard implying that some other “result” should have been reached?
Peter Rainford

• Both your editorial and Anne McElvoy on the Lib Dems and Lord Rennard (A sorry saga of mistakes, 21 August) are right. The decision to reinstate Rennard suggests that the political culture not just in the Lib Dems but among a significant section of the political class is lagging behind what is now generally considered acceptable behaviour in personal relations. It should be a sobering thought to Nick Clegg that many large employers, seeing a pattern of behaviour and multiple complaints, would have started a misconduct process in a similar case.
Keith Flett


In the words of Roger Kain (Letters, 22 August), the University of London maintains that the 1944 trust deed of the Warburg Institute “is unclear in what it covers” and that is why legal proceedings have been advised. However, in his next paragraph, he refers to a “dispute” requiring to be resolved. Is the clarification of a trust deed a “dispute” (and if so, who with?) or is there a dispute those interested in the matter need to know about?
Anand C Chitnis

• Stirling Smith is wrong in almost everything he says about William Pitt (Letters, 21 August). He supported Wilberforce in his efforts to abolish the slave trade; he was strongly in favour of Catholic emancipation; and he had no hand in the arrest of Tooke. Moreover he led the country through much of the war against Napoleon after becoming prime minister at the age of 24. No prime minister before Gladstone had a better claim to commemoration on a stamp.
Richard Jameson
Guildford, Surrey

• I understand the problems caused by the invasive Himalayan balsam, but I hope the Indian fungus soon to be released in experimental trials will only control rather than wipe out the balsam (Letter, 19 August). As a beekeeper, I find that it is a prolific source of nectar as the plant flowers here from mid-July to the first frosts. A rich nectar source like this was not available to previous generations at a time of year when there is little else. My little workers and my honey yields would suffer dreadfully without it.
Peter Reasbeck

• I was pleased to see Felicity Cloake’s perfect prawn cocktail (20 August) served on a blue-and-white Denmark plate. I acquired my set of this crockery second-hand from a neighbour 30 years ago when setting up home with my husband and I have never found a design that rivals it. Any kind of food looks good on it. It’s a pity, though, that Felicity’s plate seems to have a chipped rim.
Elizabeth Manning
Malvern, Worcestershire

• If Margaret Baker’s garden really adjoins 10 others (Letters, 21 August) how does she know which one to return each cat deposit to? It’s a question of attribution, surely.
John Cranston



Sir, Carol Midgley suggests that some vets are over-vaccinating animals (“Jabs every year, expensive surgery: what are vets up to?”, Aug 19). Vaccinations are an extraordinary tool in our armoury in the fight against diseases, both in animals and humans. Under the Animal Welfare Act owners have a duty to protect their animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease. We know of no better way to protect against disease than vaccination, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, datasheet or summary of product characteristics.

When veterinary vaccines are licensed, the regulator, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, agrees a “duration of immunity” based on scientific research and vets must work within these parameters. For some vaccines this will be one year, for example leptospirosis, and for others it will be three to four years. This is because the duration of immunity varies — and why the World Small Animal Veterinary Association guidelines refer to some, but not all, vaccines being required less often.

We know that scaremongering can lead to a loss of public confidence in vaccination which can in turn lead to outbreaks of disease. Distemper and parvo virus are still killers — and the reason we see these only rarely is because most owners choose to vaccinate.

Robin Hargreaves
British Veterinary Association
Katie McConnell
British Small Animal Veterinary Association

Sir, Often, well-cared-for pets receive better care than we do. My dog’s “health” insurance is more expensive than insuring our car. However, with our dog we can have guaranteed same-day appointments and the level of care, if admission is necessary, is second to none, with
hi-tech hospital facilities and limitless diagnostic equipment. Specialities are now commonplace — pets have better artificial limbs and physio than most humans would receive on the NHS.

Animal charities should get together with Age UK and place some of the many homeless dogs and cats with caring owners. The charities would need to feed and shelter them anyway, if they remained unhomed; and lonely elderly folk could find a loyal and loving friend.

Sara Blunt
Chislehurst, Kent

Sir, May I correct Carol Midgley on a couple of points. The suggestion that vaccination can lead to disease was disproved by an Animal Health Trust survey in 2004. It found no association between the time of vaccination and the onset of illness. Also, blood tests for vaccine antibodies are no indicator of immune status.

Iain Richards
Heversham, Cumbria

Sir, With regard to “Vet costs and pets” (letter, Aug 21) we can blame the insurance companies here as we can with cars. Recently while having my cat treated I queried the relevance and cost of all the proposed measures, to be told “but your card says you have insurance” As this was incorrect the treatment was tailored accordingly.

Patrick Hogan
Beaconsfield, Bucks

Covering farmland with solar panels could be a step towards taking the land over for building

Sir, It is not just Melksham, Wiltshire, that is suffering from a spate of solar farm applications (“Solar farms may be first step to greenbelt housing”, Aug 20). In South Shropshire there are five applications for solar farms, two of them just outside Ludlow.

Those who oppose these applications have a problem: they are dismissed as nimbies and it is assumed that all solar panels are good and green, wherever they are sited.

In reality nimbyism is a recognition of beauty and of the English love of the land. There is a common understanding, held by town and country dwellers alike, that human beings need places of rest and beauty in our troubled world.

We may need alternative sources of energy but solar panels on green fields bring their own problems: good agricultural land is taken out of food production, there is a loss of biodiversity, and in a tourist area probably a loss of income, and employment.

Greedy developers are trying to push through poorly prepared proposals for solar farms before the April 1, 2015 deadline. These schemes make vague promises but have few hard facts; there is poor assessment of the current environment and little attempt to assess the impact of their activities. At the end of the life of the scheme there will be a hefty bill for the clean-up of the land — or will it go to housing?

I hope the government takes prompt action to stop this careless ravaging of the countryside.

The Rev Sylvia Turner

Whitton, Shropshire

HS2 is not the problem – the government should spend the money on repairing the trunk road network

Sir, Damian McBride (“Labour must scrap HS2 to avoid a rail disaster”, Aug 19) misses a fundamental point in relation to Labour’s opportunity to appeal to business — people will always drive cars, and stuff ordered online for home delivery has to be delivered in a van. I run a business that goes to people’s houses to fix doors, windows and locks every day up and down the UK, and I can tell you that the transport system is a far bigger priority than any rail link.

Having done about 30,000 miles around the UK last year, here is my hot list of roads that need enough investment to allow business to move efficiently and get things done: A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge; a South-Coast link road from Kent to Devon, including a bypass around Worthing and Arundel; the M60 — all of it; the M62 — all of it; the M1 — all of it; the A1 from Newcastle to Edinburgh; the M6 from its start to the M55; the M5 from Birmingham to Bristol; the M8 Edinburgh to Glasgow and, worst of the worst, the M25, often little more than a car park.

In short, Mr Miliband should
re-invest the £50bn in the road system and his party would instantly become the party of business.

Rick Francis

Anglers stand arm in arm with landowners in hostility to canoeists and kayakers – in England, anyway

Sir, David Aaronovitch’s account of anglers and kayakers squabbling (Aug 21) does not ring true of the Tweed, although anglers are seen as paying a lot and canoeists very little if anything at all.

Big Scottish rivers like the Tay and Tweed are fished regularly from boats and a lot of salmon are caught without the fish being put off by the floating fishermen.

Canoeists on the Tweed seem to be considerate and usually give precedence to the angler in the boat as well as on the bank.

And in the past our bewhiskered forefathers would arrange for the salmon pools to be stoned to stir the fish up. It is not unknown either for fish to be caught after canoeists have gone past.

Stephen M Fielding

Kirkbrae, Galashiels

Sir, While salmon fishing on a prime beat of the River Spey one day, I engaged in some jovial banter with a passing canoeist.

Shortly afterwards I was approached by a very concerned and inquisitive ghillie who had witnessed the exchange from afar. I assured him as to the cordial nature of our conversation. He looked hugely relieved and uttered the immortal line, “Congratulations sir. You’ve just met the laird.”

Peter Hibbert

Longley Green, Worcs

Lament for the Teenagers who only saw Glenfinnan and the Sands of Morar on the Screens of their Phones

Sir, How right Tanya Gold is about the insidious effects of smartphones (Aug 22). My wife and I have spent the past week taking two 17-year-old Australian girls round Scotland to see the sights — from reindeer on Cairngorm to Arisaig and the Glenfinnan viaduct, Loch Ness and the Edinburgh Festival and castle.

It soon became apparent that in their eyes the object of their journey was not to learn about and enjoy what they saw but to take “selfies”, and to giggle about them in the back of the car. I doubt if they have a clue of where they have been — but it’s all on Facebook. What’s the IT equivalent of a grumphry?

Peter Mackay

Kincraig by Kingussie


A harvest of plums of the Stanley cultivar reveal their ripeness with a waxy bloom  Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 22 Aug 2014


SIR – Where are all the plums (Letters, August 21)? On the tree on our allotment in Devon. We have picked about 150lbs and made jam and crumbles to freeze but have given most away. We also have wasps.

Wendy Potter
Torquay, Devon

SIR – They are in my garden in France, where my plum tree is so heavily laden that I will have to prop up the lower branches as I have done in previous years.

Robert F Garner
Pembury, Kent

SIR – I am indebted to my fellow Telegraph readers for information on where I might find some wasps. However, I was not complaining but merely curious as to their absence from my garden. As for the lack of plums on Ron Kirby’s trees, I still have a bucketful of damsons to spare.

Ann Brooke-Smith
Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

SIR – Please inform Dorset that we’ve got their plums – but have they got our apples?

Geoff Milburn
Glossop, Derbyshire

Hambledon Hill in Dorset, a massive and ‘magical’ Iron Age hill fort, has been bought by the National Trust for the nation. The hill has a rich natural and archaeological story dating back to before the construction of Stonehenge, the National Trust said. The Iron Age fort, the first the trust has acquired for 30 years, was built more than 2,000 years ago and overlies one of the most significant early neolithic landscapes in western Europe dating back almost 6,000 years, the trust said. Photo: National Trust Images/Ross Hoddi

6:59AM BST 22 Aug 2014


SIR – Jutting out like a giant battleship bow from the uplands of Cranborne Chase into the Blackmore Vale, Hambledon Hill is possibly the most spectacular Iron-Age hill fort in Britain.

In its more recent history, the hill was the site of the last stand of the Dorset Clubmen in 1645. These Wessex country folk, embittered by the rampaging armies of both sides in the Civil War, rose up against both King and Parliament. Some 5,000 locals, armed with scythes and pitchforks and led by a local parson, marching to the war cry of “If you plunder us and take our cattle, be assured we’ll give you battle”, assembled on what is now called Clubmans Down, nearby. After baiting a parliamentary patrol at Sturminster Newton and being driven off from Shaftesbury, they retreated behind the ramparts of Hambledon Hill, resolved to fight to the death.

Cromwell was not amused and sent a troop of dragoons to sort the Clubmen out, ordering them to use the flat of the sword where possible. The troops took the hill with little difficulty, killing several, wounding many and capturing around 300.

Many escaped by sliding down the precipitous slopes where horsemen were unable to follow. The prisoners – “these poor silly creatures”, Cromwell called them – were locked up overnight and sent home with a warning to behave themselves.

John Cleare
Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire

File photo: journalist James Foley in 2011 Photo: AP

7:00AM BST 22 Aug 2014


SIR – I was horrified by the terrible death of James Foley. There are few words left that have not been used to describe the barbarity of the Islamic State.

The Prime Minister has left himself no room for manoeuvre by saying there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq. The situation is too volatile to say that categorically. We already have mission creep – the original humanitarian effort has become surveillance by Tornados and drones, and the SAS are helping the Kurds.

Much against my own values, I find myself increasingly wanting boots on the ground. We can no longer stand by and think that the Islamic State will stop at some stage. It is a threat to everything we hold dear, and we should be prepared to fight to protect that.

Public opinion seems to be shifting towards this view, despite memories of the Iraq war, and David Cameron should take note.

Hannah Walker
Cattistock, Dorset

SIR – How sickening to see that poor American journalist about to be executed in the most evil and barbaric manner. The fact that a British man was doing this is dreadful.

Thanks to all the complacent politicians over the years who thought multi-culturalism was the way to go, the United Kingdom is not the country I was brought up in.

People like my father, who fought in the Second World War, must be turning in their graves. This is not how they, or we, envisaged life in the 21st century.

Marianne Stevens
Halls Head, Western Australia

SIR – Whatever action is taken against the Islamic State – and we need action, not just fine words – it should not be constrained by peacetime norms. Jihad is holy war and, for the Islamic State, total war.

David Cameron has warned against a knee-jerk reaction, but any reaction would be welcome. For a start, as Nigel Farage has suggested, the scope of the Foreign Enlistment Act needs to be widened to cover Britons who fight for proscribed terrorist organisations, and not just those who fight for foreign states.

Then, we should be making plans to intern any jihadist who returns to the United Kingdom, as the security services do not have the resources to keep track of them.

Any such measure warrants the recall of Parliament, even if no active hostility is envisaged.

Roger Smith
Shefford, Bedfordshire

SIR – Am I alone in repudiating the notion of a “British jihadist”? Surely the terms are mutually exclusive.

Christopher Macy

SIR – I understand that Islamic State funding has been boosted by more than £1 billion since it captured some northern Iraqi oilfields. In order to realise that money, they must sell the oil – but to whom? Those involved in this trade should be exposed, and severe economic sanctions applied.

Dr P I Raffaelli
Gosport, Hampshire

SIR – How the West must yearn for the return of the good old days of Hosni Mubarak, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. We do still have Bashar al-Assad, who now seems positively benign compared with the Islamic State.

Ian Macleod
Whitchurch, Shropshire

SIR – Events in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Ukraine are causing tremendous concern among political and religious leaders. Some events are truly horrifying. And what is the EU doing? It is banning vacuum cleaners over 1600 watts.

Steve Cartridge
11046097Bolton, Lancashire

Irish Times

Sir, – Any women who has the right to travel and sufficient funds will be able to go to England to have an abortion, if she decides to do so. Any women whose right to travel is restricted or who does not have access to that money will, however, be subject to the new legislation, having to face a panel that decides on her fate. The issue of being suicidal is not really of any consequence here.

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and the new legislation only ever affect an already disadvantaged and marginalised minority. Everybody else deals with a termination the way they decide for themselves and does not have to worry about these things too much, as there is always the option of a trip to England.

At the inevitable next abortion referendum, most Irish voters will therefore again be in a position to contemplate the sanctity of life and the right of the unborn in the safe knowledge that the issue is really only an academic one for them.

And they might even feel pleased with themselves for having taken a “moral stand”. – Yours, etc,




Co Roscommon.

Sir, – When will the conversation turn from women’s reproductive rights (which are many, let’s be frank, from myriad forms of contraception to the morning-after pill to the freedom, albeit fiscally defined at present, to decide to abort a pregnancy) to men’s reproductive rights, which are basically nil? When are we going to discuss a father’s rights? – Yours, etc,


Ballinlough Road,


Sir, – I would like to thank Ruth Cullen for her considered and intelligent column on abortion (“Advocates of abortion ignoring a little truth”, Opinion, August 21st). It is by far the most level-headed and caring piece I have read on the subject.

I need to add that I am not a practising member of any religion and my thoughts on the subject centre on the care we should give young women and their babies in a crisis pregnancy. – Yours, etc,


Seafield Court,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – In her trenchant defence of the pro-life campaign’s position on Article 40.3.3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, Dr Ruth Cullen writes: “Thanks in significant part to our constitutional protection of the unborn child the Irish abortion rate is far lower than Britain’s”. If the Eighth Amendment were to be repealed, it’s fair to assume there would be a marked decrease in Britain’s abortion rate. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – We are people in or from Ireland. We are under the age of 50. We could not vote in the 1983 abortion referendum which profoundly limited women’s autonomy. No subsequent referendum has provided an opportunity to undo that damage. Many of us have lived our whole lives under an abortion regime in which we have had no say. As a generation we have grown up knowing that the State would compel us to travel if we wished to exercise substantive control over our reproductive lives. We never allowed ourselves to think, at least since Miss X, that we lived under a regime willing in principle to marshal its power against a distressed young woman to compel her to carry her pregnancy to viability.

We have never been given the democratic opportunity to expand the circumstances in which an abortion can be sought in Ireland. We have repeatedly asked for this chance, but the State failed to listen. The law punishes women in our name, but never bore our mark. We are disappointed and concerned by the latest news, but we know that disappointment and concern are not enough. It is time that this generation had its referendum. That referendum must transform the law on access to abortion care.

Women in and from Ireland are entitled to autonomy, to bodily integrity, to be free from unjustified detention, to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment. Women in and from Ireland should not have to expose or prove vulnerabilities and private matters in order to access medical treatment.

As long as the Constitution confers equal rights on the mother and the foetus, doctors and nurses will be unable to treat women ethically. As long as the Constitution remains as it is, those privileged enough to afford to travel will make those difficult journeys without the support they need.

As long as the Constitution remains as it is, we consign the most vulnerable women and girls in our society to a system which will not listen to them, which will not give them any say over their own bodies, which will prioritise birth over any long-term trauma caused to them.

The people should be given the opportunity to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and to enact a law that places women’s capacity to make decisions regarding their bodies and their futures at the heart of their medical treatment. The Government claims it has no mandate to act on the Eight Amendment. This group of over 100 academics, comprising women and the men who support us, adds its voice to the demands that the Government finally listens, finally acknowledges that this mandate exists and finally gives us our referendum. – Yours, etc,

1. Prof Jack Anderson, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast

2. Dr Elizabeth Aston, Edinburgh Napier University

3. Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Law School, Trinity College Dublin

4. Dr Helen Basini, Dept. of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick

5. Prof Christine Bell, University of Edinburgh

6. Claire Bracken, Associate Professor, Union College, Schenectady, NY

7. Claire Bruton, BL

Sir, – Stephen Collins (“Bruton a political exception in speaking his mind”, Opinion & Analysis, August 16th) gets it wrong when he asserts that John Bruton is attuned to continental thinking on the futility of war (“John Bruton’s argument about Home Rule and 1916 deserves serious consideration”, August 16th).

Mr Bruton’s hero, John Redmond, supported Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1914 and used his influence as leader of Irish nationalism to encourage Irish males to join in a conflict that led to millions of deaths and the disastrous and needless destruction of Germany. The creed that John Bruton would have us celebrate is the opposite of non-violent.

I believe that our Government should be mindful of our origins as an independent State, and of our present position in the EU, in commemorating 1914. We should take care to rise above the war propaganda of that time.

John Redmond and many of his close supporters were active propagandists in the British interest in 1914 and as such they helped to foment a poisonous and irrational anti-German prejudice.

A political creed based on such a legacy is inconsistent with a reflective European commemoration of the first World War. – Yours, etc,


Corrig Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Prof Ronan Fanning (“Apparent achievement of home rule was an illusion”, Opinion & Analysis, August 16th) claims that “the constitutional nationalists [were] so resoundingly defeated by the republican revolutionaries”.

It is certainly true that, having channelled the aspirations of constitutional nationalists for decades, the Irish Parliamentary Party had collapsed by 1918. However it was not defeated by republican revolutionaries.

The heirs of the Rising, seeking to capitalise on popular disapproval of the executions and opposition to conscription, proceeded like a typical constitutional party – a couple of byelection wins followed by sweeping success in the 1918 general elections.

Sinn Féin achieved this by persuading many constitutional nationalists to transfer their support from the IPP. Thus, despite the rhetoric, Sinn Féin ceased to be revolutionaries and became the leading vehicle for constitutional nationalism. The new order it created was a conditional one and what we call the War of Independence was the defence of its institutions by the army authorised by its parliament, as in any democratic state. When later compromises had to be made, the moderates prevailed over the revolutionaries, and these, unable to accept the decisions of Dáil Éireann, withdrew into the wilderness.

Redmond was defeated by unionist intransigence and the British hypocrisy identified by Prof Fanning. Why not honour him as we do Parnell – brought down by Ascendancy intransigence and Irish hypocrisy! – Yours, etc,


Avenue Louise,


Sir, – In her otherwise splendid article on the Irish National War Memorial Gardens (“Garden of tranquility” Magazine, August 16th), Fionnuala Fallon states that Charles Frederick Ball, assistant keeper of the Botanical Gardens, was “pushed” to enlist in the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers by a white feather that came from an anonymous source. This appears to contradict the fact that Charles had enlisted in September 1914 with the other volunteers from the Irish Rugby Football Union. As the war was only a month old, it seems unlikely that a white feather would influence a man with Charles’s record and proven ability. He was already in training when the dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral exhorted Irish women to “shun those who would not volunteer for service, to visit them with severest disapproval, and when they expect a smile, just look them straight in the face and turn away”, as reported in your paper on November 20th, 1914. This may have led to a white feather campaign that sent other young men to their death.

May they all rest in peace. – Yours, etc,


Brookwood Lawn,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – How easy it is to lay the charge of elitism at anyone who dares to suggest that “development” isn’t always the best way to go.

I can vouch from recent experience that the stretch of the Barrow Line from Graiguenamanagh to St Mullins is one of the most superb river walks on these islands. And one of the features that lends this walk its unique and irreplaceable charm is precisely the grassy towpath that John Mulligan (August 21st) so much objects to.

Contrary to what your correspondent suggests, the path is neither derelict, overgrown nor unsafe. It appears to be used equally by walkers and cyclists, and there is nothing to impede its use by families generally. Nor is there anything about the path that should limit its use by overseas visitors. So where is the evidence that those who want to retain the grass surface are motivated by a desire to restrict the Barrow Line to “the few”?

A hard, smooth surface undoubtedly makes it easier for wheelchairs and buggies, although I would like an informed opinion on whether or not a grass surface prohibits such access completely. Certainly I would support anything that can be done with the existing surface to make it as user-friendly as possible.

I am fearful, however, that, as often happens in this country, the interests of engineers, county councillors and shopkeepers will ride roughshod over the concerns of the campaigners, and this uniquely beautiful “green corridor” will be lost forever. – Yours, etc,


Marley Grange,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I cycled the entirety of the Barrow towpath and Grand Canal last summer and found it to be a fantastic amenity but one that is woefully underused. From the start in St Mullins in Carlow to the finish two days and 200-odd kilometres later in Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly, I met only a handful of walkers and no other cyclists. At least one of the reasons for this must be the poor state of the towpath – in many places it is rough, muddy and unstable. It is a shame that such an asset is so underused. If we are to encourage greater physical activity we need to develop trails that are inviting to the occasional cyclist.

Being for the most part flat and traffic free, the Barrow towpath is an ideal candidate for upgrading to a greenway. There are legitimate concerns about overdeveloping the towpath but all that is needed to make the Barrow towpath user friendly is a thin strip of gravel, no more than half a metre wide, along its full length. Any more would be overkill and would damage the scenic nature of the trail. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


Co Louth.

Sir, – Some friends are just back from walking a section of the newly opened Wales Coast Path. They plan to return again several times over a number of years until they have “walked around Wales”. This is a 1,400km walking route that follows the whole of the coastline of Wales. Much of the path is also suitable for cycling.

In Ireland we have been congratulating ourselves for a number of years now about a 42km greenway in Co Mayo, which is isolated from any other walking or cycle route.

There are several other disjointed and isolated greenway projects ongoing, some funded by county councils, some by Waterways Ireland, some by Leader programmes.

Does no-one in the current Government want to leave a real, physical legacy? Is it not too much to expect one project team to be established, which would fund, plan and deliver one continuous, round-Ireland greenway?

The accelerated planning process could be used to deliver such a project in a relatively short time.

There are many foreign and local tourists who would love to walk or cycle around Ireland. A massive tourist opportunity is being lost by the absence of any vision or proper planning in relation to our walking and cycling amenities. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – RD Banton (August 22nd) claims that the EU operates “without any clear targets” and “no written statement as to how [its] efforts will benefit the people”.

However, all annual, multi-annual and long-term targets of both political and administrative bodies of the EU are clearly set out across dozens of publicly available online sources.

In addition, there are literally thousands of written statements on how these efforts are aimed at benefiting citizens.

The EU has a communications problem, but it is certainly not for a lack of output of communications material.

As regards the point on “accountability”, perhaps the writer missed the recent reform of the EU staff regulations in this area?

Finally, over 500 million people earlier this year voted in the European elections. That is how we hold politicians to account in a democracy. – Yours, etc,


Rue G et J Martin,


Sir, – It is a testament to Albert Reynolds’s legacy that those of us born during his tenure as taoiseach have been spared the violence that for so long enveloped this country. He helped build a lasting peace and for that we should be forever grateful. – Yours, etc,


Dunboyne Castle,

Co Meath.

Irish Independent:

“All deleterious consequences of [financial] market activity upon ordinary people . . . are considered natural market outcomes for which no one can be held accountable, as if they were just unfortunate natural disasters.”

Maeve Halpin (Letters, Irish Independent, August 20) illuminates the formidable fallacies and fiascos of the current financial market vagary as visited on ordinary people’s lives.

She does so with commendable clarity and a patent penchant for social justice.

While the gambling stock-market gurus revel in their self-aggrandising games of “monopoly money-play”, the half-decent community aspects of retail banking are being discarded hand over fist.

Mammon rules all before it, especially the vulnerable who get trampled and tossed aside in the surge towards grotesque riches for some, and near penury for most.

One has to say ‘half-decent’ in relation to retail banking, as the basic notion and practice of usury is essentially tainted with a ‘core-greed’ ingredient.

One can understand, in part, the moderate value of a ‘loans and interest payback schema’, to bolster at reasonable pace a sustainable growth of general social standards.

However, over the last half-century a brutal culture has exponentially strangled any sense of decency in the market fray.

The skewing of interest rates on the back of fickle investment markets leaves little in the way of sustainability, dependability or reasonability.

The ‘quick-buck’ manual of financial exchange is truly in vogue, and how? The recent and prevailing traumas and collapses in banking would almost appear to have little transformative 
effect on the culture of capital-capture.

Cabals of vulture capitalists are rampaging around the world sucking up bargains galore from diseased loans and properties for next to nothing.

Ireland is no more a sovereign state, not just because of the IMF/ECB oversights and strictures, but because so much of the country’s assets belong to money-leeching corporations and adventurists elsewhere.

Ms Halpin champions the recall of the Glass-Steagall Act to re-establish the separation of retail from corporate banking. She is perhaps being dreamily optimistic, but let’s hope we can celebrate such optimism, when it comes to pass.

Dreams can come true, if there’s a collective will for authentic democracy and a caring societal model of care/share.

Patrick J Cosgrove

Lismore, Co Waterford

Albert, man of the people

As a former member of An Garda Siochana I can now share my memories of my one encounter with the former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

In the winter of 1993, while working as a detective in Tallaght, Dublin, myself and a good friend were alerted to the fact that the Taoiseach would be going to the cinema in the Square, accompanied by Kathleen, to see the Crying Game, and we were assigned to mind them during their night out.

Following the film, we would have been quite content to escort them safely back to the state car, until Kathleen declared that she wanted to go to McDonalds.

I recalled, on hearing of the death of Albert, my clear memory of him casually walking through McDonalds, in his trademark trench coat, as he carried a tray of burgers and apple pies followed by his burly security detail. Truly a man of the people.

Colm Featherstone (retired Detective Superintendent)

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

State’s shame over Gaza

As the latest ceasefire unravels, the impact of Israel’s blitz in Gaza is coming to light, as is the utter horror of what has been inflicted on the people there over the past five weeks.

The absolute destruction of much of the infrastructure of Gaza now means that the already besieged strip is in the throes of an orchestrated humanitarian crisis.

That, coupled with the rising death toll – now at 2,086, including 541 children, the thousands of injured, the hundreds of thousands displaced – further highlights just how shameful the Irish Government’s decision to abstain from a UN resolution calling for an inquiry into war crimes was.

It is long past time that Israel be held accountable for its actions in Gaza and that the illegal siege be lifted.

Zoe Lawlor and Mags O’Brien,
Gaza Action Ireland

Dooradoyle, Limerick

Responsibility for abuse

A very senior Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, asks us to accept that the Holy See should not have to bear legal liability for priests cited for sex abuse on the grounds that such behaviour is against Vatican policy. He cited a hypothetical example of the employer of a truck driver who molests someone in his truck not, in the Cardinal’s opinion, bearing any liability for the employee’s acts, on the grounds that sexual molestation contravenes company policy.

Has the esteemed cardinal ever heard of the doctrine of vicarious liability? This holds that an employer does bear a liability for the torts of an employee committed in the course of employment. The injured party who claims to have unfairly suffered loss, or harm, could be either another employee or a total stranger. Therefore, if a truck driver were to molest a stranger in a truck owned by their employer in the course of his employment, it is highly likely that there would be a substantial civil case to answer.

This would be separate from a criminal trial and based strictly on legal liability and not merely a moral responsibility.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin

Tackling educational barriers

Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland has a point when he says that ‘educational disadvantage, mirrors in large part economic disadvantage’. But it is not the whole story by any means ['Children of farmers are three times more likely to go to college', Irish Independent, August 22].

Your article tells us that children of farmers, whose average income from farming is €24,000, ‘are three times more likely to go to college’. The article also tells us that one of the counties sending the highest proportion of school leavers (60pc) to college is Leitrim, the economic profile of which is far from that of affluent Dublin 6.

This is so despite the fact that rural students from relatively modest backgrounds have to pay for accommodation, while urban students can live at home. Overcoming the educational disadvantages that are encountered in certain urban areas, not all of which are economic, is a challenge that should be taken up by policymakers. The return to society and to the people involved would be immense.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Demands on abortion law

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

This provision in our Constitution, which so many are now demanding be deleted, has protected the lives of two people in this country, where, in many other countries, one would have been killed at the behest of the other. Are we to subject the right to life of everybody in this country to the momentary opinions of somebody else?

Killian Foley-Walsh


Irish Independent


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